Cow Country News- January 2022

Page 52

Feed for Fertilizer Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Fertilizer values have increased dramatically since a year ago. Urea is more than $800 per ton or about $1 per pound of nitrogen. Potash and phosphorus fertilizer have similarly increased in cost. If a lot of hay tests 12% crude protein, 2.5% potassium and 0.25% phosphorus, a ton of this hay would contain the equivalent of 38 pounds of nitrogen, 83 pounds of potash and 11 pounds of P2O5. The fertilizer value would be $70-$75 per ton. Don’t overlook the fertility value in hay and develop a strategy to capture the value from manure. Feeding hay on fields can be a strategy to deposit manure nutrients in pastures. Bale grazing, unrolling hay or other feeding approaches can be implemented. Feeding hay on a concrete pad can allow for the collection and spreading of the manure. We import nutrients onto the farm in other feedstuffs as well. The recent bourbon production boom has increased access to distillery grain products. Stillage is readily available and can be a source of both protein and energy for supplementation. Stillage is approximately 93% water. However, on a dry matter basis the nitrogen content is 4.5% nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is near 1%. Retention of nutrients may only be 10-20% leading to 80-90% of nutrients excreted in the manure. This would lead to the excretion of approximately 70, 28 and 40 pounds of nitrogen, K2O and P2O5, respectively, for each ton of stillage fed on a dry matter basis. This would equate to roughly $90-$100 in fertility value. However, as much as 70-75% of the nitrogen excreted may be lost to volatilization reducing the potential value captured to about $40$45 per ton. If we add the water back to calculate the value on an as-is basis, the value is 7% of the above or roughly $2-$3 per ton. Several years ago, researchers at the University of Nebraska evaluated distillers grains as a forage substitution for pastures. The researchers compared low stocking rate control (2.8 aum/acre), 80 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per acre and a stocking rate of 4.0 aum/acre, and supplementing 5 pounds of dried distillers grain per head having a stocking rate of 4.0 aum/acre. The cost of urea was $363 and dried distillers grains were $110 per ton at the time of the report in 2009. Profitability was lowest for the low stocking rate, control reflecting the lower production per acre. Profitability was similar for the N fertilizer and distillers supplementation treatments with the nitrogen fertilizer treatment returning only $4.55 per acre more than the distillers grain supplementation strategy. Average daily gains were 1.37 pound for the control and nitrogen fertilizer treatments while the supplemented groups gained 1.95 pounds per day. Given the cost differential of urea and distillers grains currently, the analysis would likely favor the dried distillers grains supplementation over the urea fertilization. Operations that are able to get distillery feeds at a low cost would have a greater economic advantage. As fertilizer prices have escalated and bourbon production has increased leading to greater access to distillery grain by-products,

52 • Cow Country • January

feeding distillery feedstuffs has the potential to lower cost of production while importing fertility. Sustainable operations will capture the manure fertility value from feeding distillery grains by-products. Producers should develop a manure nutrient management plan and feed reasonable amounts of stillage, syrup or distillers grains to achieve desired animal performance. Avoid excessive levels of feeding to reduce nutrient importation to the farm if there is limited opportunity to export nutrients through the sale of grains like soybeans or corn. Additionally, excessive feeding can have a detrimental effect on rumen fiber digestibility from the high level of fat intake potentially lowering animal performance. For more information on utilizing bourbon distillery grains feedstuffs, contact your local extension office. Consider reading our fact sheets on distillers grain feedstuffs for more information and consult with your nutritionist for developing feeding programs utilizing distillers grain feedstuffs. Have a great New Year and I look forward to seeing you in 2022.

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