Tips for winter feeding | TSLN.com

Tips for winter feeding

Dave Barz, DVM

Fall is definitely here. The cool windy conditions remind us that winter will not be far behind. Most of us have the silage cut and the hay harvested. The frost killed some of the less hardy plants and forecast the need to begin winter feeding. Winter feed is very important because it is one of the largest expenses in a cow-calf operation. Waste of this winter feed can greatly add to the expenses in your herd so it is very important to minimize losses.

Storage greatly affects feed quality and deterioration. Most of the hay in our area is round baled. If a 48 inch round bale shows discoloration and deterioration in the top two inches all the way around that bale, you have about a 15 percent dry matter loss. Four inches is 30 percent or about one-third of the bale. You will find that the quality of the hay is decreased for roughly twice the area which shows visual damage.

Whether round bales are tied or net wrapped they absorb water constantly from the ground they rest on. Some clients place boards or pallets under the bales to stop spoilage. If you add a thin layer of gravel to your hay yard you can help eliminate the problem. When storing your bales try to align them with the prevailing winds. This will keep drifting snow from piling around the bales and soaking the sides of the bales as the snow melts.

When you feed round bales we recommend you remove the net or strings to avoid consumption by the cows. We have found this very important in ground hay in your calves. Many of the animals we post are impacted with a non digestible plastic knot which eventually leads to their death. University research has evaluated four types of round bales feeder and rated losses:

• Cone feeder – 3.5 percent

• Ring feeder – 6.1 percent

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• Trailer feeder – 11.4 percent

• Cradle feeder – 14.6 percent.

The round feeders excel because they allow animals to crowd in beside cows which are eating while straight inline feeders require an eating cow to back away pulling feed with her when another forces into her position.

Grinding hay in our area has helped conserve feed. When you grind feed constituents and store them in separate piles, your nutritionalist can formulate rations for your cow’s exact needs and avoid over feeding. As the weather gets colder and your cows require more nutrient late in gestation, your rations can be adjusted to meet their need. We have found it best to force feed the needed minerals in a complete ration. This eliminates under and over consumption by some animals at a self serve mineral feeder.

The electric fence has been used for many years to limit feed intake and wastage. I have seen producers string a fence in pastures to initiate strip or cell grazing. Others place one in front of the silage pile and slide it back daily as feed is consumed. Still others leave bailed hay in the field and allow cattle access to more bales as needed for winter consumption.

One of my clients strung a simple wire about 20 feet from the fence in his winter pasture. Every morning he feeds the cows along the fence a balanced ration forcing them to reach under for feed. In the evening he uses straw or filler to give them something to chew on overnight. If you have a lot of fines in your feed, you can add a little water which freezes them into small clumps the cows readily consume. Another producer uses the syrup from ethanol production as a binder for his feed.

Winter feed is one of the largest expenses in cow-calf herds in our area. Innovative storage, attention to decrease waste and an appropriate balanced diet will help minimize your losses, while maximizing your mamma cow’s gestation health. This will help your operation remain profitable in these times of high input costs and low returns.

Fall is definitely here. The cool windy conditions remind us that winter will not be far behind. Most of us have the silage cut and the hay harvested. The frost killed some of the less hardy plants and forecast the need to begin winter feeding. Winter feed is very important because it is one of the largest expenses in a cow-calf operation. Waste of this winter feed can greatly add to the expenses in your herd so it is very important to minimize losses.

Storage greatly affects feed quality and deterioration. Most of the hay in our area is round baled. If a 48 inch round bale shows discoloration and deterioration in the top two inches all the way around that bale, you have about a 15 percent dry matter loss. Four inches is 30 percent or about one-third of the bale. You will find that the quality of the hay is decreased for roughly twice the area which shows visual damage.

Whether round bales are tied or net wrapped they absorb water constantly from the ground they rest on. Some clients place boards or pallets under the bales to stop spoilage. If you add a thin layer of gravel to your hay yard you can help eliminate the problem. When storing your bales try to align them with the prevailing winds. This will keep drifting snow from piling around the bales and soaking the sides of the bales as the snow melts.

When you feed round bales we recommend you remove the net or strings to avoid consumption by the cows. We have found this very important in ground hay in your calves. Many of the animals we post are impacted with a non digestible plastic knot which eventually leads to their death. University research has evaluated four types of round bales feeder and rated losses:

• Cone feeder – 3.5 percent

• Ring feeder – 6.1 percent

• Trailer feeder – 11.4 percent

• Cradle feeder – 14.6 percent.

The round feeders excel because they allow animals to crowd in beside cows which are eating while straight inline feeders require an eating cow to back away pulling feed with her when another forces into her position.

Grinding hay in our area has helped conserve feed. When you grind feed constituents and store them in separate piles, your nutritionalist can formulate rations for your cow’s exact needs and avoid over feeding. As the weather gets colder and your cows require more nutrient late in gestation, your rations can be adjusted to meet their need. We have found it best to force feed the needed minerals in a complete ration. This eliminates under and over consumption by some animals at a self serve mineral feeder.

The electric fence has been used for many years to limit feed intake and wastage. I have seen producers string a fence in pastures to initiate strip or cell grazing. Others place one in front of the silage pile and slide it back daily as feed is consumed. Still others leave bailed hay in the field and allow cattle access to more bales as needed for winter consumption.

One of my clients strung a simple wire about 20 feet from the fence in his winter pasture. Every morning he feeds the cows along the fence a balanced ration forcing them to reach under for feed. In the evening he uses straw or filler to give them something to chew on overnight. If you have a lot of fines in your feed, you can add a little water which freezes them into small clumps the cows readily consume. Another producer uses the syrup from ethanol production as a binder for his feed.

Winter feed is one of the largest expenses in cow-calf herds in our area. Innovative storage, attention to decrease waste and an appropriate balanced diet will help minimize your losses, while maximizing your mamma cow’s gestation health. This will help your operation remain profitable in these times of high input costs and low returns.