Like Taking Candy From a...Cow?
With the corn and soybean crops in short supply following this summer's drought and growing demand for ethanol, farmers have been slaughtering their herds.
Pigs came first; they breed much more quickly than cows, and it's easier to regrow herds, though some have also been slaughtering cows. These moves will likely push up the price of meat in the months to come.
But there are also plenty of cattle farmers that don't want to liquidate their herds. So they're coming up with another solution.
Candy has now become a huge focus for cattle farmers. They've found that they can get some types of candy for half the price of corn.
A ton of corn, for example, would cost a cattle farmer $315, versus the $160 he'd pay for a ton of ice-cream sprinkles.
Nutritionists haven't protested the move, either. In fact, this practice has been on the rise ever since corn prices began going up in 2009. Since then, corn prices have doubled.
“As the price of corn has climbed, farmers either sold off their pigs and cattle, or they found alternative feeds,” said Mike Yoder, a dairy farmer in Middlebury, Ind. He feeds his 400 cows bits of candy, hot chocolate mix, crumbled cookies, breakfast cereal, trail mix, dried cranberries, orange peelings and ice cream sprinkles, which are blended into more traditional forms of feed, like hay.
Yoder's nutritionist told him to keep the candy content at 3%. But even with this small percentage of candy, he found that the sugar has increased each cow's milk production by three pounds a day.
Beef cattle farmers have noticed the same thing. The sugar content tends to fatten up the cow, but it has proved safe for both the animal and the humans that eat the meat.
“It has been a practice going on for decades and is a very good way to for producers to reduce feed cost, and to provide less expensive food for consumers,” said Ki Fanning, a livestock nutritionist with Great Plains Livestock Consulting, Inc. in Eagle, Neb.
But – though it may be cutting off some competition for corn – the industry has not gone unaffected. Candy prices have started to rise as well, as demand becomes increasingly high.
Yoder said he is now paying $240 for that ton of sprinkles that once cost him $160. But it's still better than the $315 for corn.
Besides, feed brokers like Midwest Ingredients, Inc., a company based in Princeville, Illinois, sell more than just candy. Midwest also sells other byproducts to be mixed in with the hay, like peanut butter, fruit fillings, and fish meal.
It may not be ideal, but this odd arrangement satisfies an equally odd lack of product. Corn isn't just used for food anymore, and now with the tight supply, substitutes are needed.
And candy is readily available.+4
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