Yesterday on her blog, Northview Dairy, Three Collies had a link to another blog where they talked about Ethanol. I read it and typed out a longer reply and then when I clicked the button to post it, I must have pushed the wrong button or something. Anyway, I thought I’d “air my paunch” here a bit about it.
Seems some are concerned that we are taking something that is mostly used for food and turning it into something we burn as fuel.
From all the studies I have read, ethanol is a bust. The only reason it is working is because the government is underwriting it to the tune of at least 75 cents a gallon on up, depending on who’s figures you use. The price of corn has risen quite a bit and the worry is the the cost of food will rise with it, as corn is used in so many products anymore and also is used to fatten cattle and pigs and chickens.
Seems to me that in the past, whenever something becomes scarce and costly, some enterprising people find substitutes for it. Just like they substituted corn syrup for sugar in many different types of foods. Just as they substituted coal for wood, when wood became scarce at the start of the industrial revolution. Etc..
Here on this ranch, we traditionally only fed corn when we had bad winters and dry summers. When I was a kid Dad would bed cows down in hay and that is what they needed and got. They wasted a lot of it, but he put up a lot of hay for winter feed. No grain. When we were short on winter feed because of drought we would buy ear corn to fed to the cows, to give them some more energy and make up for less hay they received every day, just like almost every other rancher in this area. Then it became popular to feed cow cubes which were processed grain and by products that had been made from excess cheap grains. All except for corn, as it wouldn’t stick together in the form of a cube, too well. Dad didn’t like them as he thought there was too much waste.
As I took over, I weighed the price of the feed against the contents and what you got out of it and did feed several different types and forms of cubes over the year. And then there was Loomix, which was a syrup made from the left overs of sugar beets, if I remember right. It was touted as a way to stretch your grass and give the cattle more bang for the buck, in drought years. The guy delivered it and put it in a container with wooden wheels exposed. the cattle licked the wheels to get the product, with the idea being that they would get tired or bored after awhile so they would not eat too much of it. A way to control the consumption. Seems like some cows had brown faces and some didn’t so you could pretty much tell which were eating the most and the least. This was on a range situation and the idea was to just put it out and not have to mess with it every day like when you fed in the winter. Results varied.
Now we have lick tanks, lick blocks and lots of other assorted ways and means to supplement cattle on pasture and also while under hand feeding, or as in everyday feeding something to cattle.
Every year I look at all the different types and the cost of each and what the protein and fat levels are, so as to see what is the cheapest and most beneficial to the cattle in the winter.
And I always end up feeding the same thing, as it is the cheapest and easiest with the most bang for my buck. Extruded soybeans. Soybeans that have been put through a large screw system, which breaks the beans down and puts them through a slight heat which helps to make them more digestible. The product runs about 40% protein and 12% fat. Costs a lot per ton, but a small amount does a lot of good. Kind of like the difference between steak and jerky. I get it locally and mix salt with it to limit the cattle from eating too much. If I have something I am trying to fatten up, as I am now, with some older thinner cows in the corral, which I feed in a feed bunk with a bucket of grain, I limit the amount they feed by only giving them a certain amount and scattering it out over a large enough distance that each cow gets her fair share. But with the cattle in the pasture, I mix the salt and don’t have to worry about one hogging all the feed.
Anyway, long story short, I will continue to use this product until another comes along that is cheaper or better or both. Same with corn ethanol.
When/if corn gets to high to be economical to be used as feed, someone will find something else.
But when the government sticks it’s finger in the water by paying something for nothing, so to speak, it sends ripples out that we have no idea where they will end up or what it will cause. In trying to help one person or group, it will cause grief to others. Always has, always will. Bottom line to my way of thinking, if ethanol is a good thing, why does the government have to pay companies to produce it?
But don’t worry about corn and the price. Like all things sold and used by mankind, eventually when it become too high to use as food or fuel, somebody will find a better, cheaper source.
There are quite a few in the cattle business who are finding out it might be cheaper and more effective to fatten cattle on grass and forages. Like the old timers did. And the cycle continues.