Reuters – U.S. farmers are feeding their livestock everything from outdated pet food and leftover bakery rolls to crops imported from South America after unprecedented spring planting delays boosted prices for locally grown corn.
Agricultural co-operatives, equipment dealers and plants that process corn into ethanol have already been strained because farmers were unable to plant millions of acres this spring due to widespread flooding.
Meat producers are now turning to substitutes in an attempt to keep production costs down and stretch out supplies of corn held in storage. Many expect corn prices will climb even higher once harvesting starts this fall because yields are expected to be weak due to springtime flooding.
Feed is typically the biggest cost of raising farm animals, so adjusting diets has become critical for producers who are also grappling with a U.S.-China trade war that has hurt exports of American agricultural products including pork.
Ohio farmer Jim Heimerl, who sells 700,000 pigs a year, swapped out corn for dry pet food, which he acquires through a broker and can be outdated or mislabelled. Heimerl is also feeding his hogs more wheat middlings, which are a byproduct of the flour-milling process.
“We’re already starting to ration our corn out,” he said. “It’s only going to get worse and it’s all because of the weather.”
In Minnesota, farmer Randy Spronk is using recycled bakery byproducts such as breads, cakes and candies for 10 per cent of his hogs’ rations to reduce his need for corn.
“The bushels that are here are precious,” he said. “We’re trying to make them last as long as we can.”
Spronk buys the crushed bakery goods from ReConserve, which says it is the country’s largest recycler of bakery, cereal grain and snack food byproducts.
The bakery goods are safe and nutritious for livestock but do not meet manufacturers’ packaging or quality standards for human consumers, said Bryan Bergquist, ReConserve’s vice-president of feed sales.
“In times like this, when your main input in feeding livestock goes up, you start looking for best cost alternatives,” said Omarh Mendoza, nutrition director for The Maschhoffs, the largest U.S. family-owned pork producer.
North Carolina-based Prestage Farms has been feeding distillers dried grains, an ethanol byproduct, to hogs in Iowa and has also imported corn from Brazil, said John Prestage, whose family owns the company.
“We are looking everywhere to minimize the impact of high-priced corn,” Prestage said.