Planning and managing feed supply

Dave Barz
for Tri-State Livestock News

The weather has gotten a little cooler, but at least we got some rain and several inches of snow. The snow is gone, but it left some moisture behind. My last article talked about timely culling and use of residue feeds to decrease feed costs and stretch limited feed supplies. The summer was hot and dry causing drought conditions in most areas of the central U.S. grazing areas. Recent USDA reports show lows in cow herd numbers and feedlot placements. Although we are enduring some short term financial losses, the outlook for the future may be bright. Hopefully our struggles during these trying times will be rewarded.

We talked about grazing residue (corn stalks, bean stubble, fall grazing) to increase our feed supply. Many of you have harvested wheat straw and corn stover for winter feed. It is much less expensive to have the cows glean the roughage, but if you harvested or purchased it, you will need some supplementation. If available, distiller’s grains make an excellent affordable option.

Ionophores help stretch limited feed supplies. Rumensin (monensin sodium) and Bovatec (lasalocid) improve the feed utilization in growing cattle. These compounds alter the rumen fermentation patterns and thereby improve the metabolizable energy in feeds. Rumensin is the only ionophore approved for mature beef cows. It has shown no effect on the reproduction in herds while reducing intake by approximately 5 percent to 10 percent. Oklahoma state data showed an increase gain of 0.5 pounds per day at a cost of 2-3 cents per day.

Test your feedstuffs to assure you are not feeding excessive amounts of any nutrients or energy. Your nutritionalist can formulate specific rations for your herd. Hopefully the weather will remain mild and we will be able to minimize feed usage. Remember, the colder it gets, the more we must feed to maintain our cows body condition.

Limit feeding will also help conserve feed. Cows will eat all day long if allowed 24 hour access to feed. Research has shown decreased hay disappearance with no detrimental effects on body condition when only allowed access to feed 4, 8, and 12 hours rather than 24 hours. Other management programs allow unlimited access to poor-quality roughage while concentrates are bunk feed or fed as range cake every day. The addition of these concentrates decreases the intake of roughage.

Most of the cows in our area appear to be in good condition, but we are seeing some thin cows at the sale barn which have come from other areas. We have seen several management problems with poor-quality roughage (silage) being fed to weaned calves. Your nutritionalist, extension specialist, and veterinarian are valuable recourses in these times of high cost and low-quality feedstuffs. Careful planning and good management will assure your herd maintains high levels of production as we enter a future of higher prices.