Consider alternate feeding methods for cows
What a shot in the arm! A two inch general rain early in July. It should be great for the pastures and the row crops, but if you are trying to gather hay, the humidity and precipitation may be a problem. I really don’t know what El Nino is, but I sure like the cool wet days. The market for cows has really increased since the rains started and I am sure the adequate feed it will continue.
Pasture rent in our area has really skyrocketed, making other systems of cow-calf management more cost efficient. In our area of southeast South Dakota we deal with the “Flip Cow.” This is a cow that has been sold from a grazing operation further west. Some are normal culls, but some years the grass conditions force producers to market large numbers of OK cows. These cows move to the eastern feedlots and are bunk fed. Usually they do not see grass or if they do it is an intense grazing program.The outcome of these cows varies:
1) Fattened and sold to slaughter.
If the cows are open when purchased they are implanted and fed a high concentrate ration. After at least ninety days of feed they are deemed ‘White Fat” and sold to slaughter. These animals enter the food chain and products are purchased by consumers. These animals have helped fill demand for beef in the last few years.
2) Fed and sold as breds
Many cows young and old are screened and the bred sorted. They are fed and marketed before calving adding numbers to local herds.
3) Fed and calf in semi-confinement
Some of them are sold as cow-calf pairs. Others will be fed in the pens and the calves will receive creep feed. Usually the cows are split and sold fat in August and the calves remain in the pens.
4) Rebred and retained
Some producers turn bulls with the cows in confinement or pasture. These girls then re-enter the cycle for the next year.
Several of our producers are utilizing semi-confinement rather than pasture. The important thing is that the mixed ration assures the cow gets the nutrition, vitamins and minerals she needs in every bite. This helps in digestion and thereby improves feed conversion. When we bunk feed we reduce feed wastage by 30 percent. This should result in savings of 10 percent – 15 percent in feed costs. Couple that with increased feed efficiency of 5 percent – 15 percent and it is no wonder the NDSU data showed a significant increase in first cycle conception rates.
As grasslands are lost to urban sprawl and agriculture we must think of cost effective alternative ways to house our cattle. Some operations already have infrastructure, pens, feeder wagons, and bunks in place for use. Consult with your veterinarian, nutritionalist or extension specialist and determine if alternative methods will work in your operation. The cow calf sector is now profitable and the more pounds you can produce on your operation, the more potential income you will receive. This will not only help your ranches cash flow, but will also meet beef consumer demands, sustainability and efficiency.