Vet’s Voice | TSLN.com

Vet’s Voice

Dave Barz, DVM

Summer really flew by. Dakotafest is over and all that remains is the State Fair. With the kids back in school we must assume winter will not be far behind. Now is the time we must take inventory and plan for our winter feed needs in our cow-calf herds.

Feed is the highest expense in our cow herds. Several years ago we believed the average cost to maintain a cow was about one dollar per day. Unless you are a serious low-cost operator, I don’t believe you are getting by for $400 per year per cow. Many of my high-cost operators are spending $650-plus for yearly cow maintenance.

Most of you have spent the summer making hay for winter feed. Now is a good time to count the bales you have on hand and move them into yards close to your wintering areas. When you handle the bales use a hay probe and sample each group of bales or stacks for nutritional value. Your extension specialist or nutritionist can help you sample and formulate low-cost maintenance rations. Using average weather conditions you will be able to estimate how many days of feed you have on hand.

With all the rain we had this year we have had a lot of regrowth on many of our hayed areas. These areas can be fall grazed to decrease the need for winter feed. It has always been less expensive for the cow to harvest roughage than for you to hay the field. Early fall grazing will provide grasses which are very similar to spring grass in nutrition. When you utilize dormant grasses (winter grazing) the forage will supply about 3-5 percent protein. A cow in mid-gestation (4-7 months) requires about 1.4 pounds of protein. If the cow eats 30 pounds of a 4 percent protein source, she will be short 0.2 pounds per day of protein. This can easily be supplied. As she approaches calving she may need 1.8 pounds of protein supplementation and lactation may require 2.1 pounds. This increase shows the importance of knowing the levels in your feedstuffs and the careful supplementation needed in late gestation and early lactation.

Grazing crop residue has been used in our area for many years. Now would be a good time to graze wheat stubble. The regrowth is substantial after rain, but the window for grazing is short because reseeding will begin soon. Bean stubble has a real benefit in our area. When cows are turned into soybean fields they glean the beans left by the combines. This increases the deposition of brown fat in the fetus responsible for energy in the calf after birth. This produces stronger, more aggressive calves at birth, as well as a good protein source for the cow.

Corn stalks are terrific winter pasture. First the cows find the dropped corn, then they eat the husks, leaves and stalks. Some of the corn borer-resistant varieties are not as tasty for the cow. These harder-stalked corns may not be consumed readily.

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If the weather holds and we have a mild winter, we have seen producers feed very little supplemental feed until about a month before calving. Plan to graze residue farthest from calving areas first. As you move from field to field you will also get closer to your winter feed should the weather suddenly change.

This year calf prices appear to be high enough to offset the maintenance costs of your cow. Careful planning and utilization of unharvested or residue feeds can greatly decrease the cost of production without any decrease in the nutritional levels needed for proper gestation. Visit with your veterinarian, nutritionist or extension specialist to devise a plan for your operation. Every dollar you save in feed cost and supplementation is extra dollars in your pocket.

Summer really flew by. Dakotafest is over and all that remains is the State Fair. With the kids back in school we must assume winter will not be far behind. Now is the time we must take inventory and plan for our winter feed needs in our cow-calf herds.

Feed is the highest expense in our cow herds. Several years ago we believed the average cost to maintain a cow was about one dollar per day. Unless you are a serious low-cost operator, I don’t believe you are getting by for $400 per year per cow. Many of my high-cost operators are spending $650-plus for yearly cow maintenance.

Most of you have spent the summer making hay for winter feed. Now is a good time to count the bales you have on hand and move them into yards close to your wintering areas. When you handle the bales use a hay probe and sample each group of bales or stacks for nutritional value. Your extension specialist or nutritionist can help you sample and formulate low-cost maintenance rations. Using average weather conditions you will be able to estimate how many days of feed you have on hand.

With all the rain we had this year we have had a lot of regrowth on many of our hayed areas. These areas can be fall grazed to decrease the need for winter feed. It has always been less expensive for the cow to harvest roughage than for you to hay the field. Early fall grazing will provide grasses which are very similar to spring grass in nutrition. When you utilize dormant grasses (winter grazing) the forage will supply about 3-5 percent protein. A cow in mid-gestation (4-7 months) requires about 1.4 pounds of protein. If the cow eats 30 pounds of a 4 percent protein source, she will be short 0.2 pounds per day of protein. This can easily be supplied. As she approaches calving she may need 1.8 pounds of protein supplementation and lactation may require 2.1 pounds. This increase shows the importance of knowing the levels in your feedstuffs and the careful supplementation needed in late gestation and early lactation.

Grazing crop residue has been used in our area for many years. Now would be a good time to graze wheat stubble. The regrowth is substantial after rain, but the window for grazing is short because reseeding will begin soon. Bean stubble has a real benefit in our area. When cows are turned into soybean fields they glean the beans left by the combines. This increases the deposition of brown fat in the fetus responsible for energy in the calf after birth. This produces stronger, more aggressive calves at birth, as well as a good protein source for the cow.

Corn stalks are terrific winter pasture. First the cows find the dropped corn, then they eat the husks, leaves and stalks. Some of the corn borer-resistant varieties are not as tasty for the cow. These harder-stalked corns may not be consumed readily.

If the weather holds and we have a mild winter, we have seen producers feed very little supplemental feed until about a month before calving. Plan to graze residue farthest from calving areas first. As you move from field to field you will also get closer to your winter feed should the weather suddenly change.

This year calf prices appear to be high enough to offset the maintenance costs of your cow. Careful planning and utilization of unharvested or residue feeds can greatly decrease the cost of production without any decrease in the nutritional levels needed for proper gestation. Visit with your veterinarian, nutritionist or extension specialist to devise a plan for your operation. Every dollar you save in feed cost and supplementation is extra dollars in your pocket.

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