Winter Feeding Management

ALBERTA - Winter feeding programs for beef cattle often involve the use of bale processors in conjunction with ground feeding. With this feeding system, certain feed types may be more susceptible to both nutrient and dry matter losses.
calendar icon 25 January 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

Specialists with Alberta Agriculture and Food, the Agriculture Technology Centre and the Western Forage Beef Group conducted two research projects in 2004/2005 to determine what impact bale processing has on particle size distribution in the windrow, and what losses may be occurring with ground feeding.

“To assess the impact of bale processing, a flail type processor was used,” explains Gordon Hutton, forage specialist at Alberta Agriculture and Food’s Ag-Info Center, Stettler. “Four hay types were selected for these projects: alfalfa, alfalfa/grass (30 per cent alfalfa/70 per cent grass), grass hay (Crested wheat) and oat green feed.

The results indicated that of the four hay types, processing had the greatest impact on alfalfa hay. In this project, 60 per cent of the alfalfa windrow was comprised of fines while the fine content for the other hay types ranged from 30 to 40 per cent. The fines that are generated during processing have higher concentrations of energy, protein and minerals than the coarse stem material. However, fines are also more likely to be lost when ground-feeding systems are used.”

Feed waste as a result of ground feeding was evaluated through a winter-feeding trail at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research station in Lacombe. Three feeding systems were compared. Processed grass hay on snow, unrolled on snow and processed into a bunk. The outcome of this project indicated that the highest feeding losses occurred when the grass hay was processed and placed on the snow. A significant portion of this wasted feed was fines, which as indicated in the previous project, contain the higher concentration of nutrients.

The Western Beef Development Centre in Saskatchewan also completed winter-feeding trials using bale processing and bale grazing. This project looked at two aspects of these winter-feeding systems: the potential for feed wastage and the potential for nutrient cycling when using pre-selected wintering sites. For this project a perennial grass stand was selected as the winter-feeding site. The results from this project showed that there is considerable benefit to managing winter-feeding sites so that the nutrients from both the manure and the feed residue are recycled through the perennial grass stand. Improvements to forage yields were observed for several years after the completion of the winter-feeding trial.

Further Information

Summary reports on either of these projects can be viewed by clicking on the links below:

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