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Blocks, Tubs or Pellet: What is the Best Option When Supplementing Protein

Sales of lick tubs, molasses blocks, and protein supplement continues to be strong. The question to consider is: what Is the appropriate product or combination of products to use? There are many factors to consider along with the type of animal being fed, feed quality, availability, and weather.

Five pieces of information are needed before making a decision

1. Representative feed samples with accurate analysis

2. Animal weights

3. Bale weights

4. Ability to weigh out components in the ration (Total Mixed Ration)

5. How each feed is supplied

Supplementing protein can be done in many ways. Is there a higher quality forage available? If not, does the product of choice meet animal requirements? Two options are to feed one pound of a 20% protein supplement ($385 / tonne, or 17.5 cents a pound). Feeding 0.4 pounds of wheat distillers’ grains with solubles (WDG) which contains 48% protein at a cost of $535 / tonne, or 24 cents a pound) supplies the same amount of protein. If protein is the only concern, the WDG is more economical to use. Both options are usually fed with grain or mixed into silage in a controlled feeding program.

Another option is to feed tubs or blocks, free choice. With this option, it is not possible to know how much product individual animals are consuming. The free choice systems have a greater risk of not achieving the intake that is required.

In the above example, a 1,400-pound cow in late pregnancy requires a 9% protein diet (dry basis) or 1,020 grams of protein per day. Adding one pound of a 20% supplement or 0.4 pounds of WDG increases protein content in the ration by 90 grams or 0.5% on a dry matter basis. If the ration contains 8% protein, it would be necessary to double the feeding rates to meet requirements.

There are times when label recommendations do not work. Each situation is different. Balancing rations can improve the use of available feeds and evaluate which purchased product(s) best meet the needs of the animals. It has the potential to reduce costs as well.

For additional information on protein supplementation, contact Barry at 403-741-6032 or


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