No one likes to run out of a feed. What should you do if you run out of a feed? When you run out of corn, get some [more] as soon as possible. However, oftentimes this is an inevitable situation, and luckily there is a temporary solution for it called feed substitution. The substitute for a feed is one or two feeds with a similar nutritional make up, on a protein, energy or fiber basis.

Protein feeds would be soybean meal, distillers dried grains or canola. If you are out of a protein-type feed for a day or two, use another protein feed on a pound-for-pound basis. If you are using high moisture protein feeds, convert the amount to a dry basis when calculating how much to use of a substitute dry protein feed.

Energy feeds are either high- or medium-energy level. Corn, barley, hominy or bakery are high-energy feeds that can be substituted for each other, except for bakery, which is fed in limited amounts due to the crude fat level. Distillers grains can be used as a high-energy or protein substitute. Examples of medium-energy feeds are beet pulp, corn gluten feed, wheat middlings and soy hull pellets. The medium-energy feeds can be substituted for each other.

Fiber feeds, mostly roughages, alfalfa hay, corn silage, alfalfa haylage or greenchop can be substituted on a pound-for-pound basis. Remember to substitute on a dry matter (DM) basis. Liquids and high moisture feeds vary in protein and energy level. Use water and medium energy feeds in combination as a substitute, depending on the moisture level of the feed you ran out of. Whole cottonseed contains protein, energy and fiber. There is no good substitute for whole cottonseed. Distillers can be used on a short-term basis or for a limited amount of time for some whole cottonseed.

Do not run out of corn, corn silage or alfalfa hay. These feeds are the basis of the diet. The key to substituting is to use like feeds on a protein, energy, fiber or moisture basis. When you don’t know what to feed as a substitute, feed more roughage. PD


Dr. Lawson Spicer for Progressive Dairyman