Why I Don’t Mix My Own Feed and More Pages From the Past

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By The Capper's Farmer Archives | Jul 28, 2015

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Shredded fodder is baled and stored for use as bedding.
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The is Pepper's general purpose barn.
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Gale F. Peppers studied price cycles.
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The Farmall is the favorite with horseless farmers the country over.

Why I Don’t Mix My Own Feed

By E.C. Adams
Jackson County, Missouri
as told to M.N. Beeler

Dairycows need a mixed ration. There are two ways to provide what they require. You can buy it or you can mix it yourself. The grain ration can be supplied more cheaply from the home farm if you have the land to produce it. Also if you can grow a legume hay, preferably alfalfa, of uniformly good quality, you’ll save money by producing it.

But in my experience that is as far as you can go in producing your dairy feeds. Grain and hay are not enough for profitable milk production. Cows can’t produce their maximum on that ration. And a profitable maximum production is necessary for a profitable project. A protein supplement must be supplied. That supplement must be a combination of by-products.

Up to this point, all dairy authorities and most dairymen who are operating at a profit agree. But beyond this, my system is at variance with the recommendations of some authorities and with the practices of many dairymen. The ingredients of the protein supplement must be mixed. Home mixing is generally advised because it is considered to give the cow what she needs at the lowest cost. I have no quarrel with the fellow who wants to mix his own protein feed. I don’t attempt it.

In the first place, I don’t have time. In the second, I can buy a ready-mixed feed that is uniform in ingredients, in quality and in protein. I can’t mix that kind. Nor can I mix a protein feed as cheaply as I can buy it when everything is considered.

If I did not buy a ready-mixed protein feed, I would have to buy at least five ingredients. To get those ingredients at a low price I would have to buy them in carload lots. That would require storage space for the five loads, a place to store the mixed feed and a place to mix it. In a herd the size of mine, 72 cows, hand mixing would be out of the question so machinery would be necessary. Some dairymen have as much space for feed storage and mixing as they have of cow barn and milking space.

A cow that is properly fed must have a ration of unvarying content. A reliable ready-mixed feed will supply that because it will be scientifically proportioned and prepared. Even if I had the machinery to make a proper mechanical mix, I wouldn’t be sure a given carload of by-products would be of the same percentage composition or the same quality or the same feeding value as the one I had used before. If I didn’t get a thorough mix, and I couldn’t do that with a scoop shovel, the cows wouldn’t get the right amount of the various feed ingredients. If a cow needs 24 percent protein, an 18 is insufficient and 30 is a waste. If she needs 24, she ought to have that – not 18 at one feed, 24 at the next, 16 at the next and so on. She either needs 24 percent protein or she doesn’t.

On the same basis if a given mixture is right, that is the mixture she should have. I might not have any trouble buying all the ingredients of my protein ration one time. But could I get all of them next time? Maybe the fellows who were using beet pulp remember what happened a year ago. It couldn’t be had. The big feed companies bought up the supply and even imported pulp. What chance would a man have buying imported pulp or any other kind for that matter at country points?

Of course a man who is buying in carload lots is not dependent upon his local dealer. But the fellow who buys in small lots is. Here again the advantage of the ready-mixed feed is apparent. Most local dealers will have bran. But will they have an uninterrupted supply of cottonseed meal, linseed meal or any other product you decide to put into your ration? If they handle a ready-mixed feed from a reliable manufacturer, your supply of ingredients is assured.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I am as strong for homegrown feeds as anybody. They are the cheapest source of dairy feed so far as they go. But you don’t grow bran, cottonseed meal, beet pulp, molasses, linseed meal on your farm. You’ve got to buy it. I want to say something about commercial feeds here. A lot of farmers contend they use only homegrown feeds. Their advisers call ready-mixed feed “commercial” and then tell them to save money by using homegrown feeds. But of course they’ll have to buy tankage, cottonseed meal, peanut meal, soybean meal, linseed oilmeal, bran, shorts, meat scraps, or something of that nature, depending on what class of stock they are feeding, to balance the homegrown feed. Well, I don’t call those by-products homegrown. They were produced on somebody’s farm first, but they’ve been commercialized to the extent of having everything that could be used for anything else taken out.

The particular brand of feed I use is a good feed. It is always the same composition because it is manufactured by a reliable company which guards the quality carefully. It costs about $5 a ton more than some other feeds I could buy. I feed half corn and oats and half protein feed. That cuts the extra cost to $2.50 a ton. A cow will get 10 pounds of the combination a day. That extra cost amounts to 2.5 cents a cow daily. With my milk at 40 cents a gallon, a cow doesn’t have to give much more to pay the extra cost.

Now, I don’t like to pay any more for what I buy than anybody else. I may be paying more for this feed than I ought to, but I can’t use cheap feed. I’ve never got by with it yet. It’ll show up every time in the pail. And I don’t pretend to do my own buying. I let the salesman for the company do that. With all the things I have to do, I can’t study feed markets and keep track of supplies and demands. The salesman for this company keeps in touch with the situation. He knows how much feed I need. Therefore he places my order when the price looks best. If he knows I’m running low and is expecting an increase, he explains the situation and I order on his recommendation. I can do that with safety because he knows if he is to keep my business, he can’t oversell me or give me misinformation. It is to his and his company’s interest to make the best buy for me. The feed is stored in their warehouse and I haul it out as my trucks come back from town.

There’s one man in the neighborhood who mixes his own feed. He buys six or seven ingredients and stores them on the farm. I watch his cow test record. He doesn’t beat me any in feed cost for 100 pounds of milk. Much of the time his costs are higher. And that is on the basis of first cost of his feed, not considering the mixing, storage cost, interest on equipment and similar items.

I grow my corn and oats, 600 tons of silage and hay for the young stuff. I don’t have enough land to raise hay for the milking herd, so I buy western alfalfa. It is finer and more uniform than hay I could grow. I keep a daily feed record and thus know just what the feed consumption of my cows is in relation to production.

Peppers Played a Market Tip

By S.E. Compton

You remember the beef market debacle? During those years of frantic feeder buying, frantic steer selling and bankruptcies, Gale F. Peppers, Brown County, South Dakota, was milking cows. Those were the days when beef men looked with envy upon the dairymen, or swallowed their pride and got in on the pay streak.

Gale Peppers was raising hogs, too, because they fit into the dairy program. But dairying was his major project. Cows made a market for feed and pasture. They were the non-speculative branch of livestock farming over a period of several years. Beef men clung to their steers and traditions desperately. Gale Peppers milked cows doggedly. He was watching the beef cattle situation just as beef producers were watching the dairy situation.

Just when folks had decided that beef prices never would recover and the only hope for farmers was in dairying and poultry keeping, Peppers began selling his milk cows. He sold eventually to a bare foundation. Then he got into the beef making business. Why? Peppers had an inside tip on the market. He knew when the upturn would take place.

“We had been watching the beef situation,” said Mr. Peppers. “We studied beef market history. We knew that production and prices moved in cycles. Those cycles are about 15 years in duration. That, with a study of supplies, told us when to get into the business. We are going to feed cattle as long as there is any money in it. The cycle will forewarn us when to expect the next slump. Then we’ll get back into dairying. The foundation is on the place and will pay its maintenance and some money besides.”

Dairying is just as safe as it ever was. It continues to pay an income every day. But Mr. Peppers considers it doesn’t offer the opportunities at present that beef making does and so he has reduced the one and is emphasizing the other.

“We make constant use of government reports,” Mr. Peppers continued. “They are available on all the major farm products, beef making, dairying, poultry, pork, sheep and crops. We study those which apply to our program.

“Right now beef cattle offer better opportunities than either dairying or pork production although we are maintaining both projects so as to be in position to emphasize either when conditions change. The beef cycle changes more slowly than the hog cycle. The man who will study reports and markets will have at least a year’s warning of any violent change.”

Mr. Peppers is feeding about two carloads of beef cattle a year on his 320-acre farm. The last two years he has been making baby beef. The younger stuff is more profitable, more stable and safer than yearlings and 2-year-olds. Older cattle cost more and do not make such profitable use of their feed.

Before Mr. Peppers took charge of the farm, wheat farming had been followed. Soil fertility had been depleted. In 1917, a rotation was begun. In 1918, when Mr. Peppers came home from college, he brought seeds of three adapted varieties of crops: a 60-day variety of oats, which resulted in 10 to 15 bushels increase an acre; Odessa barley, which was 5 bushels better than the local variety; and Acme wheat, which was rust resistant and in years when rust was bad made 5 to 8 bushels more than Marquis.

The major rotation consists of corn, oats and barley, wheat followed by Sweet clover. The Sweet clover, in addition to enriching the soil, is a three-profit crop in that it supplies hay, pasture and a seed crop. The minor rotation for hogs consists of corn, oats and alfalfa. The hogs run on alfalfa and harvest the corn in the minor rotation. After the hogs come in from the cornfield they are put behind steers.

“Profit in farming here consists in doing other things than raising a crop,” said Mr. Peppers. “When we were straight wheat farming we couldn’t get ahead. Under the livestock program we are not getting rich but two families have been living from the farm, we are enjoying some of the better things of life, and we have been able to keep up payments on the farm. That’s better than we would have been able to do at grain farming.”

Crop yields under the rotation, legume and manuring plan together with adapted varieties have increased at least a third in the 12 years. Mr. Peppers has conducted variety tests in co-operation with the county agent and the South Dakota State College of Agriculture. In this way he determines which varieties are best for local conditions. He knows that pure strains of these varieties are necessary for best results and for that reason he has avoided mixtures. Thus by controlling weeds and diseases he is able to get his small grains certified and sale of seed is one of his sources of income.

“Weeds are one of our greatest difficulties,” Mr. Peppers explained. “Much of the grain in this section was docked 30 percent, 18 pounds a bushel, last season. That’s another factor in the low returns from straight grain farming. Our wheat was docked only 3 percent, which was the lowest penalty assessed against any grain delivered to the local elevator. Weed and disease control were responsible. It is practically impossible to get rid of weeds without rotating.”

The rotation is a distinct advantage in maintaining a swine sanitation system. Mr. Peppers is following the McLean county system, which requires farrowing in clean quarters and raising the pigs on clean ground.

Adequate equipment for effective labor and time saving has been a factor in making the farm pay. Mr. Peppers recently replaced an old 15-30 tractor, which had been used seven years, with a new 20-40, which is capable of pulling four bottoms. This tractor also is used in pulling a grain separator. He considers that the threshing rig and tractor will have paid for themselves in three years with a little custom work. Two row cultivators have replaced the single row equipment as a means of lowering production costs.

“In general I believe it is a good plan to adopt a definite system and hold to it until results dictate a change,” said Mr. Peppers. “The man who makes good is the man who sticks by his program. I don’t mean that a man should feed steers regardless or maintain a definite output of hogs. But he should adhere strictly to his rotation in connection with a livestock program.

“I quit the dairy business because I saw better opportunity in beef cattle, but I still milk 8 to 10 cows. I sold the surplus on an advance. When the price of cows is low, I may build up again. Then, if the beef business is still good, I will sell the milk cows as close as I dare. Otherwise, I will develop the dairy herd pending an ascent in the beef cycle.

“Similarly I may vary my pork output but I always will raise some hogs. I have 12 sows now and am producing about 80 fat hogs a year. If conditions warrant I am in position to increase the number without much difficulty and without jeopardizing my business in case I should misinterpret the trend.
I’m holding to my rotation and my livestock program but there’s enough latitude in that to permit variation in the size of my projects.”

The Farmall Story is Well told by these men who farm with Farmalls

Their letters make an interesting read, too.

“Just finished cultivating 75 acres of corn. My Farmall will work in crooked rows where a snake would get lost, and it does a fine job of cultivating.” — Robert Sowle, Mona, Mont.

“My experience is that the cost of preparing land and cultivating a crop can be reduced by at least 50 percent by the use of a Farmall. I think there will be a better day for farmers when they all learn the advantage that motor power has over horses in plowing, cultivating, etc.” — E.E. Cother, Aberdeen, Miss.

“I had 235 acres of corn which I cared for alone, besides milking 8 cows. If I hadn’t had a Farmall I would have had to use three 4-horse teams and two hired men. I think horse farming is a thing of the past. Wouldn’t sell my Farmall at any price unless I could get another. It has saved me time and labor and made me money.” — Reggie Garrett, Amherst, S.D.

“I am sure I am safe in saying it is at least one-third cheaper to farm with a Farmall than with horses.” — Leslie G. Arnold, Arcadia, Neb.

“I consider my Farmall the most wonderful tractor made. I cultivate, mow hay, plow, disk, run our binder, cut wood, etc. I am astonished at the amount and kind of work it will do. The Farmall is to my mind the greatest piece of machinery ever brought onto this or any other farm. I cannot praise the Farmall too highly, and really love to use it.” — F.P. LeCompte, Urbana, Va.

“I use a Farmall but I have not as much as a singletree to hitch horses onto. Have no desire to own horses.” — Adolph Anderson, Montevideo, Minn.

“The Farmall is the greatest machine developed for farmers since the reaper.”
— H.A. Finch, Jr., McKinney, Tex.

“Have done all my work alone. Not a hired man or a horse on the place. I claim my Farmall is doing the work of two men with two 2-row planters and three men with three 2-row cultivators, and does it on half the feed expense. Must you ask if I amsatisfied with my Farmall?” — J.A. Butler, Nunn, Colo.

“I have two little boys (13 and 11 years) and they do anything I can do with my Farmall. They run it all the time.” — Bob Taylor, Savannah, Tenn.

“In years of tractor experience I have never seen a tractor which fills the bill for every job on the farm like the Farmall. It enables one man to do economically the work of 2 or 3 men and 10 to 20 horses. It is easy to operate and has ample power. The Farmall is going to make farming more of a pleasure than it has ever been before.” — William Galloway, Waterloo, Iowa.

“I will never cultivate corn with horses again when the Farmall can be had. The Farmall is the best all-purpose tractor that can be bought. Give me McCormick-Deering machines every time. They are the only kind I will recommend to my friends and neighbors.” — C. Elmer Wright, Springhope, Pa.

“One thing I am sure of, my Farmall does the work of from 6 to 10 head of horses at about the cost of maintaining 3 good horses.” — L.D. Stone, Raymondville, Tex.

“I would not trade my Farmall tractor for 10 horses. It does my work quick and just when I want to. I did a big business plowing for neighbors; the Farmall has got them all skinned for breaking new land.” — Wm. Junemann, Stratford, Wis.

“We farm 200 acres with our Farmall — 105 of corn and 75 of oats. Put the oats in 2 days, had a tandem disk and 2-section harrows on the Farmall. With a 2-row cultivator we cultivated 20 to 22 acres a day the first 2 cultivations and 30 to 35 on high speed the last 2 cultivations. It is the best corn plow I ever handled.” — Claude Wessling, Paton, Iowa.