Colorado Company Experiments with Pine Fiber to Feed Cattle During Drought

October 13, 2012

While extensive areas of the central United States are experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades, one Colorado company is getting creative with its livestock food choices. Cattle feed has become quite limited for land owners across the plains states this year, as widespread drought has limited corn and soybean production as well as other traditional feed sources for livestock.

Colorado-based JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding has turned to the mountains where thousands of acres of pine trees have been affected by mountain pine beetle infestations. The company has been experimenting with feeding its cattle small amounts of pine fiber from those trees that have been sickened by the beetles. The experiment aims to compare the nutritional impact on cattle ingesting the pine fiber mixture to that of cattle still on traditional feed formulas. After 5 months of feeding some cattle roughage milled from the pine trees, the cattle feed company does not have official data but said that the experimental diet hasn’t produced any noticeable health changes.

The United States Agriculture Department (USDA) recently announced that the country’s corn crop will be the smallest in 6 years, and the soybean crop would be the smallest in 9 years. Ag land owners across the US are struggling with higher feed prices, but this Colorado-based company thinks using portions of the pine fiber from beetle kill trees might just offset those higher costs and shortage of feed.

Are you a Colorado agricultural land owner dealing with negative effects of the drought? What creative methods have you come up with to offset the effects?