Meal prices are up anywhere from €40/t to €60/t on the same time last year and, by the sounds coming from feed merchants across the country, we haven’t seen the last of the price hikes just yet.

Many feed companies are increasing feed costs by €10/t in December, with the possibility of similar increases in the new year.

However, taking some simple steps can help minimise feed costs this winter, while at the same time being careful not to affect target performance levels.

1. Know what you need to feed

Having silage analysed accurately is the first step in making sure you are only buying the amount and type of concentrate that you require.

This is from an energy point of view in terms of silage DMD, but also from a crude protein level, which can add a lot of expense to a ration.

There is no point buying a higher protein level ration if your silage is already high in protein or if you are feeding finishing cattle that have a lower protein requirement.

2. Price around

It is always worthwhile pricing around for a ration, even when you have no intention of switching supplier.

At least you can be sure that you are getting a decent price from your merchant.

When doing this, be sure you are comparing like with like. Ask for ration compositions and get them to email through a spec and price to you so that you can compare in your own time.

3. Bargain hard

Before doing a deal, make sure you have negotiated the best possible price.

Let them know how many cattle you are feeding and what sort of tonnage of meal you will be using this winter. Where volumes are significant, they are more likely to be keen to do a deal.

Credit is another important point, especially this year when every load of meal that leaves the mill is carrying an additional €1,400 worth of credit due to higher prices.

If you are able to agree a 30-day credit or even a price on delivery, it could be worth an extra €5/t to €7/t off for you.

4. Buy bulk rather than by the bag

While bags can be convenient for feeding, they are an expensive way to purchase meal. Buying by the bag will be in the region of €30/t to €40/t more expensive than buying bulk.

Where a farm is not set up with a meal bin or meal storage, buying a half tonne black bin that goes on the bale lifter is the next best step. While it won’t be of use for bulk delivers, it can be taken to your local merchant to be filled when necessary.

5. Buy a coarse ration rather than a nut

While it might not suit all farmers, buying a coarse ration over a nut will save between €10/t and €15/t, which can add up over the course of the entire winter period.

Manufacturing a nut obviously costs the feed mill money to run the machine and therefore they have to charge more money for a nut.

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