This fall, hay, grain, and silage supplies are limited for many farms and ranches. Generally, extra energy and protein are needed to supplement low quality hay or straw-grain based rations. Grain pellets are an option. However, what should be considered before purchasing a grain screening pellet.
1) What does the pellet contain?
There are 3 distinct types of screening pellets. By-products from the flour and brewing industry, along with grain or pulse screenings are commonly found in pellets. They can also contain chaff, small weed seeds, and dust. The grain and by-products are processed through a hammer mill before being pelleted. The only way to know what is contained in the load is to obtain a batch scale sheet.
2) Potential for weed contamination
Material is commonly ground through a 1/8 inch screen before being pelleted. Pressure, steam, and temperature are used to form the pellet. Larger weed seeds such as wild oats are broken and do not germinate. It is not likely, but some smaller “hard” seeds can pass through undamaged and may germinate later. Be mindful if the pellets are fed in a field and where the manure is spread.
3) Presence of ergot
There is no way to determine if ergot is present by visual means. All material is ground, and it is impossible to find whole kernels. One of the first symptoms of ergot contamination is a reduction in feed intake within three to four days of introducing the pellet.
4) Energy density
Depending on the pellet, energy content can be higher than average quality hay (60% TDN); but not equal to barley grain (83% TDN). Usually, the energy is somewhere between these two values, but it all depends on what is in the pellet. If there are significant amounts of canola seeds or weed seeds that have a high oil content; energy values increase. If it is mainly canola pods and chaff; energy density decreases. It is difficult to obtain an accurate energy estimate.
5) Supplemental minerals, vitamins and ionophores
Adding these ingredients at the mill when the pellet is made simplifies feeding on farm. Instead of hand adding 3 or more products to the ration, they can all be in the pellet.
The least expensive product is not necessarily the best deal. If the pellet consists mainly of low-grade screenings, the energy density can be low. The inclusion of minerals, vitamins and an ionophore increases the value. Compare the cost of the pellet to a grain mixture that supplies the same amount of nutrients to determine if it is a good purchase.
For additional information on feeding grain pellets to your cattle, contact Barry at 403-741-6032 or firstname.lastname@example.org.