The phrase “you are what you eat” also holds true to the nutrition of animals raised on local farms.
Mick Robertson, branch manager of Jewell Grain in Okolona, said, while corn is usually a base in animal feed, other elements can be added to ensure healthier animals.
“Most of our feeds we manufacture here are grind mixes where we put in a supplement, and corn are the bases,” he said. “We have some rations where we use corn gluten pellets, which is a byproduct, and distiller grains. We can mix those rations together or we can deliver supplements and those products directly to the farm for the producer to put them together with their feed and manufacture their own feed.”
Robertson said, with the shift in the industry, serving farms with beef cattle is currently the majority of his business right now.
“Beef is probably 90% of our business today,” he said. “The swine industry slowed down and things have reverted back to beef cattle. We feed a lot of brood cows, cows and calves. And we feed a lot of Holsteins. We feed a lot of cattle that are ‘freezer beef’ as we call them — a producer raises them just specially to sell to individuals privately and produce the meat. Cattle is pretty easy, it’s just supplements and mostly corn, but we do have some byproducts we can incorporate into those rations depending on the cost.”
Robertson said there haven’t been any recent breakthroughs in feed, but companies continue to make adjustments to their formula.
“There’s not really anything cutting edge recently in feed,” he said. “As far as the manufacturers of the supplements we use, they tweak this and that a little bit where they think they may gain a little bit of an advantage. But, it’s all-in-all been steady over the last 10-15 years.”
However, Robertson said farmers do gravitate toward feed that proves to be economical for their farms.
“Whatever we can do to be economical, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “In agriculture today — in the grain markets this morning corn was up 20, beans were up 30. Now we’re down to corn up 5 and beans up 8, so our input costs have greatly increased from what they were a year ago. Any way that they can save a penny here and save a penny there is going to be to their benefit, depending on the meat market and what they can sell their livestock for.”
Robertson explained the feed mixes used on farms are tailored to the animals to promote nutrition.
“The base rations — the corn, the corn gluten pellets, distillers — they have some nutrients in them, but they’re not a complete package,” he said. “So we use supplements, whether it be protein supplement or even just a mineral supplement, to give the animals the calcium, phosphorus, micronutrients and vitamins they need otherwise to give them a complete diet. So, they maintain their health and longevity throughout their lifetime, whether it be a brood cow that’s going to have a few calves down the road, or a feeder steer that’s going to go into the freezer in a few months.
“But we need them to be healthy,” Robertson said. “We need them to have a good, sound physical structure internally and externally, to be healthy, to grow efficiently and convert.”
He added this all plays into the end product the farmer is working toward.
“Nutrition is going to relegate how fast the animal grows and how healthy they are all in all,” Robertson said. “Can you raise cattle on just grass? Sure. It’s going to take a lot longer to do than if you supply them with the other grains, which provide energy for growth and you provide them with the nutrients you get and the mineral supplements to complete the package to get a good conversion of rate of gain.
“On the brood cow side, the better ration you feed her, however you provide that to her, is going to dictate her longevity in the herd,” Robertson said as an example. “It dictates how long she can produce, how long she stays healthy and has good bone structure to produce calves and maintain her status in the herd.”