Alternative winter feedstuffs are available to producers

US - The warm weather and precipitation this fall have been great. Harvest is progressing and the grasses have made a comeback.
calendar icon 12 October 2006
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Soon a few cold days will remind us that winter will be here soon and we must begin to feed our cows.

The drought this summer has really limited winter feedstuffs and many producers are looking for alternative ways to feed their cows. Hopefully all producers early-weaned their calves to give them a chance to recover some body condition before winter arrives. If the winter is mild, residue feed can be utilized. Grazing cornstalks, bean stubble, wheat stubble and unharvested drought corn are all options. Most producers will have to rent or lease these fields and transport their cattle to them.

Limit-feeding cows is another alternative. Cows fed traditional rations of hay and 1 pound of supplement would cost about $1.75 to $1.90 per cow per day. Limit-feeding forage and supplementing with grain or grain byproducts can be done for about $1.25 per head per day. This program requires cows to be sorted by age and body condition so proper nutrition will be available for growth and weight gain.

To properly limit-feed a herd, producers need a mixer wagon to blend the ration, 30 inches of linear bunk space per cow and a tight fence. Whole corn is used to replace forage in the ration. Cows would be fed 15-20 pounds of mixed ration (12 pounds roughage, 6 pounds corn) rather than the 40 pounds of roughage the cow normally consumes. This means the cows may appear hungry even though nutritional needs are met. Gradually increase the corn in the ration over a two-week period. Feeding an ionophore will help prevent acidosis and bloat. Rumensin (100-200 milligrams per day) will also reduce the amount of feed needed by 7 percent to 10 percent.

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