South Dakota State University Extension Beef Specialist Julie Walker says producers need to determine what resources they have to figure out if range cubes will work on their operations. Producers should also look at the total cost of delivering it.

“A lot of producers will say, 'It’s cheaper for me to use alfalfa.' But did you take the cost of labor, of X number of hours that it’s going to take you to get the tractor started, go out and deliver it, unroll it, whatever? Did you take the cost of that tractor for the fuel and depreciation and wear and tear on the tractor?” Walker says. “All of those things need to be taken into consideration.”

She says most of the time producers are comparing feed on a cost-per-ton basis. However, Walker says they really should be comparing it on cost per nutrient rather than cost per ton.

Many producers will use range cubes because they may be convenient and cost-effective. They may also have their system set up to feed range cubes, and it could fit their management scheme.

Producers, Walker says, might use range cubes to meet a nutritional shortage. Oftentimes, they will be feeding range cubes when cattle are out on dormant forage, so they could be short on protein.


“By supplementing with range cubes or range cake, they will be able to meet that nutritional shortage or deficiency,” she says.

Producers may be choosing between alfalfa, lick tubs or range cubes to supplement their feed.

“All three of them would be able to provide the nutrients those animals need, but a producer may already have the caker, the delivery system; it may be priced right, or the cattle are too far away, so they don’t want to drive that far,” Walker says. “They could easily throw the caker in the back of the truck and run down there, and it’s relatively easy.”

The makeup of range cubes will vary depending on the manufacturer. They could include urea, wheat midds, field peas or distillers grains.

“The list of ingredients on those can be pretty varied based on what they can get at a relatively cheap cost to make the product they want. They’re really going to make that combination based on available products and products that will stick together so they will maintain the integrity of the cube,” Walker says.

Before deciding to supplement with range cubes, Walker suggests producers test their feed to see if they have a shortage of a nutrient and how much of a shortage.

She gives an example: Maybe producers are feeding 100 percent hay and the feed analysis will say there is so much protein. Maybe it is short so much protein that the producers take out a couple of pounds of hay and put in a couple of pounds of range cake.

Walker says it becomes more difficult to analyze feed quality when cattle are out grazing dormant range. In those situations, she would do a best estimate of what she thinks the forage is.

“We encourage them to watch body condition scores of cattle. If they start losing condition or appear to be not thriving as well, we would adjust,” she says.

Walker says there is research out there that says whether producers supplement every day or once a week, they will usually get the same response. If producers are feeding 2 pounds per animal and have 100 cows, they would feed 200 pounds per day. If they decide to feed it every three days, it would be 600 pounds.

She says the size of the cake feeder will determine how often they need to put it out.

“They can go from feeding it daily to feeding it once a week and get the same response because protein in the ruminant recycles and requires them not to need it every day,” she says.  end mark

PHOTO: Texas producers used range cubes to sustain their herds through the difficult drought of 2011-12. Photo by Robert Burns, courtesy of Texas AgriLife Extension Service.