Feed is an important part of Mark Goecke’s beef operation in Allen County.

Great rations make great beef

By Matt Reese

Feedlot cattle need a carefully formulated diet to perform well and consistently, so Mark Goecke puts extensive thought and effort into the right rations.

“We’re from Allen County. We raise corn, soybeans and wheat. We also finish out cattle. We market about 3,000 a year, so we feed a lot of feed every day and we combine our ingredients ourselves and make a complete ration,” Goecke said. “The cattle are mostly Holsteins and we’re getting a lot of the Angus-Holstein cross in right now. All of our animals are in confinement and we feed a ration where the base of it is corn silage for our finishing animals. We like to see a 25% corn silage ration and we add about 57% of the whole corn and then we’re feeding the rest of our protein sources whether it comes from the soybean meal or the distiller’s grain. We get our premix in Lima from Purina that contains soy meal.”

Protein is particularly important when the calves first arrive on the farm.

“As the calves we get are coming off milk, the protein source that we use in a lot of our pellets comes from the soybeans because it’s easily digestible and carries a lot of the essential amino acids that the young cattle need. When we’re feeding that pellet, we also combine a lot of soy hulls with that too,” Goecke said. “The soybean meal with the amino acids combined with soy hulls makes a very good diet for the younger calves when it’s mixed with whole corn. At that younger age, their need for protein is highest to provide that good base of marbling and muscle. As they get a little bit older, we use the same type of rations and start adding a little bit of the soybean oil as a fat carrier too so the rations start getting a little bit higher in energy. As those scales get up to 500 or 600 pounds, we switch them over to corn silage and we’re adding the additional proteins and the shelled corn from there.”

Along with about half of the shelled corn for the rations, all of the corn silage for the operation is produced on the farm. One challenge with the corn crop for the farm has been varying levels of protein.  

“When you have a wet June versus a dry June, the corn silage protein will vary along with the shelled corn protein,” he said. “We have to take that into consideration. When the protein levels in the corn decrease, that is when we have to increase our protein sources whether it be from the soybean meal or from the distiller’s grain.”

Crops on the farm had an uneven start this season with cool wet weather, extended dry conditions and the smoky skies in June, so adjustments may need to be made in rations this fall based on the variable conditions. Another concern in recent years has been the vomitoxin levels in corn, which require additional ration adjustments.

“Probably one of our biggest things that we’ve experienced in this part of Ohio last couple years was the vomitoxin level,” Goecke said. “We really don’t want to see the high vomitoxin for these animals because we don’t want to hamper our rate of gain. That has been probably the biggest challenge that we have had in the last two years or three years — making sure that we don’t have high vomitoxin levels.”

From start to finish, Goecke’s cattle operation requires a dependable, high quality, locally grown corn and soybean supply to allow him to deliver the consistent, high-quality beef his customers demand.

Livestock is the most important market for soybean producers. The Ohio Soybean Council is highlighting Ohio’s livestock industry in 2023 to showcase this vital partnership facilitating global food production.

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