Think Outside the Cube
“That’s the way we’ve always done it.” We’ve all heard and probably said this statement at some point in our lives. For some it pays homage to things that have stood the test of time and for others it’s a chance to reflect on whether our paradigm has limited us from seeing other opportunities. In the pasture and ranges of the western and southern Midwest, Range Cubes, commonly called ‘cake’ has been one of these things that has gone relatively unchanged throughout the decades. It is a product that can be used for a number of purposes:
- Provide a little more energy to animals on pasture through the late Fall to Spring months.
- Train cattle to follow the truck for bringing them into corrals and processing yards.
- Feeding different areas to not overgraze specific areas of the pasture.
Some of the problems with cake are that in times of high feed inputs, this low cost feed can get expensive quickly; One of those times is now. As we look at the ingredients that make up cake, it appears this, and probably next cake season will be an expensive one for cattlemen feeding it. Another shortcoming of cake is that it is rarely fortified and requires free-choice mineral to be fed for the animals to get the vitamins and minerals that they require during the harshest time of the year. For these reasons, cake is losing market share and appears to continue this trend into the future, possibly forever. One reason for this decline is the upsurge of lic tub use within cow/calf operations across this territory. When we look at the numbers, it’s not hard to see why:
Cake fed with free choice mineral, or fortified cake for that matter, is more expensive in today’s climate than lic tubs are when we look at cost per day of feeding these animals. As you might expect, as the size of the operation increases, so does the advantage for lic tubs financially. The graph above looks at strictly the apples to apples cost of feeding. When we look at the other factors, the advantage of lic tubs over cake becomes even more clear.
Lic tubs are much more labor efficient, they are periodically rotated throughout the pasture, and can be moved closer to working facilities to make it simpler for corralling animals to work them. They are feeding the animals with consistent consumption over a longer time period. In contrast, cake needs to be fed daily, mineral feeders need to be inspected/added to daily and there is a significantly larger time investment. We all know time is money and farmers are deciding that their time is too valuable to babysit a cake feeding program.
Additionally, fuel and vehicle prices have been hovering near record prices for the past year or more. In the case of lic tubs, when enough are put in the pasture in the correct location, many cattlemen just need to check them weekly to ensure there is enough available for their size of herd. They have peace of mind that their cattle are getting what they need each day without constant oversight. Again in contrast, cake feeding requires daily travel to and from the pasture to ensure the animals get their cake and mineral. These miles and wear on the vehicles can really add up, especially when many cattlemen have multiple pastures or pastures that are some distance from the base of operations. The table below shows the impact of these factors and how it greatly tips the balance in favor of lic tubs:
These real-world estimates are conservative and your actual costs for vehicle and labor could exceed these very easily.
In conclusion, it becomes clearer when you dive into the numbers why many of the more progressive and cost-conscious cattlemen in the traditional cake territory are making the transition to lic tubs to take care of their cattle’s supplemental needs. Lic tubs provide the energy, protein and minerals the animal needs in a consistent, labor-efficient and cost-effective package. Form-A-Feed has a full line of Form-A-Lic tubs that are formulated for all the various seasons and conditions that a cattlemen experiences throughout the year. Contact your local Form-A-Feed sales representative for more information or any questions!