Match Forage Supplies to Livestock needs calculator

Beef producers can use this software to estimate forage shortfalls or surpluses for different winter cattle feeding scenarios.


Weaning and breeding stock retention decisions are made throughout the summer and fall. Producers try to match feed supplies and additional feed purchases with the number of head they plan to feed during the winter.

When severe dry conditions occur, a producer’s time is best spent developing and assessing strategies to manage feed resources. This quick calculator estimates potential forage shortfalls or surpluses associated with various management options.

The ‘Feed to Need Calculator’ estimates the number of head that can be wintered on existing forage supplies. Or how much extra forage is needed to maintain the breeding herd and/or retained calves.

Matching your forage supplies to livestock needs by using the Feed to Need Calculator should free up your time to aggressively analyze your winter feeding options.


The Feed to Need Calculator uses your information to generate the forages required in different feeding scenarios. The calculator does not balance rations.

Using the calculator requires an understanding of:

  • Nutritional characteristics of your feed – has the feed been tested?
  • Nutritional requirements of the stock you expect to feed – do your balanced rations match the type of cattle you expect to feed?
  • Reasonable estimates of feed on hand good estimates of unit weights (for example, bale weights) and moisture content are essential.
  • Reasonable estimates of body weight of cattle you expect to feed – the calculator estimates forage needs based on a percentage of body weight. Under-estimating or over-estimating body weight will make your calculations less reliable.
  • The share of forages in your total rations – the forage component (as a percentage of body weight) will decline as you substitute other feedstuffs in your rations.
  • Reasonable estimates of days on feed.

Tips for using the calculator

  • Give yourself a buffer or margin for error. Variability in temperature and moisture conditions will impact your forage needs over the feeding period.
  • Consider best and worst case scenarios.
  • Be honest, if not harsh, with your estimates.

Download the software

Step 1.

Check system requirements.

The estimated file size is 4 MB. To use the software you’ll need:

  • Windows 2000, XP, Vista or 10

Step 2.

Download the calculator software.

  • Click the button below to download the zipped file. You will be prompted to choose a location on your computer to save the file.
  • Double-click to unzip the application file.

Download the calculator

Step 3.

Run the Feed to Need Calculator.

  • Double-click the feedv2.exe file to run the program.
  • Using the calculator, try out a few different scenarios until you are comfortable you can meet your feeding needs.


Connect with the Economics Section:

Phone: 780-427-5390
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: [email protected]