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Pearson Square Helps Set Rations

10% protein barley

32% protein distillers grains 16% ration 16 parts barley

6 parts distillers grains

We use this Pearson Square to help us mix protein sources at the right amount to come up with our target — 16 per cent overall protein.

This fall once again found us searching for feed due to excessive moisture in our area while many others were too dry. Because of this, there is little high quality hay, no straw and no grain within 35 miles of us so we are going to have to be inventive with our rations. Last year, we got government assistance with feed transportation, which enabled us to bring in better quality feed from further away. Help doesn’t appear to be coming this year, so we are going to have to make due with what we can find.

The hay we did make and are buying is good for our beef cows, but will need some supplementation to enable our small livestock herds to winter well. We have decided to work with the Pearson Square to help us decide which option is the most cost effective to compensate for the poorer hay.

The Pearson Square is a mathematical tool for formulating rations. Although I have only used it for protein, it can be used for TDN, amino acids and vitamins. It probably could be used to calculate how much fuel additive per gallon of diesel my husband needs to use. We found a free download for our computer at htm, which is very handy. I use the Pearson Square when I’m mixing two ingredients of different protein levels. For example, if I have barley that is 10 per cent protein and I have distiller’s grains that have a 32 per cent protein value, I use the square to quickly calculate how many parts of each I need to achieve a 16 per cent ration.

For those without a computer, I’ve included a graphic of the simple Pearson Square. To perform the calculations, the figure in the bottom left corner is subtracted from the centre number. The result is written in the top right corner. This is the part of barley that would need to be fed. The number in the centre is subtracted from the top left to get the part of distillers’ grains that need to be mixed with the barley to achieve a 16 per cent ration. So for every 16 units of measure we chose for barley we would need to add six parts of equal measure of distillers’ grains.

If we decide on a 14 per cent protein mixture, then we would change the center number to 14 per cent and keep the left side numbers the same. Since barley is approximately 10 a pound and distillers’ grains are about 25 per pound, the resulting mix would cost about 14 a pound. This means that since grain is scarce this year, we will remain with our ordering a 16 per cent premix from Cargill, which runs about 13 a pound delivered. Along with this, we will feed free choice cobalt iodized salt and free choice Cargill Right Now mineral for the goats and calves and Cargill Flock Care 12:12 for the lambs.

Many nutritionists that work with the Manitoba department of agriculture have told us that protein is the most expensive element of the diet and they are more than willing to help with rations. The department has all the latest technology and the farmer can use it usually for free. When using the Pearson Square and trying to calculate it myself, I have found the table at,which helps to cost the price of protein supplements, very helpful when trying to get the most for your money.

If we find that the hay is a bit deficient for the adult goat stock, we will compensate with our Cargill ration and they will be fed the same salt and mineral choices as for the small stock. Since we don’t have any high quality alfalfa hay of our own this year, we have decided to not kid and lamb until about mid May so the females don’t have as big a nutritional draw when it is still cold outside.


Last winter we supplemented our ewe herd with protein licks. Although convenient, they were expensive. We haven’t decided if we will use them this year. The pro to using them is that all the ewes get their share, unlike when feeding grain. When we have fed grain, the stronger ones tend to get more than the ones that really need it. One nutritionist we spoke with recommends protein licks because of labour savings, but since we aren’t writing cheques to ourselves for the time it takes to feed the grain, we just aren’t sure about using them again this year.

I actually enjoy the challenge of finding a good deal on feed and playing with the numbers on the Pearson Square to make sure our ration is supplying the nutrition we require. Even though all the details are yet to be finished up for our winter-feeding program, it gives me an incredibly secure feeling to know that we should have enough hay for the winter.

I have been receiving a lot of reader emails the last few months and I would like to say thanks. I really enjoy your encouragement and the sharing of the way that you run your operations. Hopefully we can integrate some of these ideas into our life to make ours run just a bit smoother. Once again, we thank you for all your input.

Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Man.

Email her at [email protected]

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