Suther's Perspective

Managing limited forage

As we move into the winter feeding season with spotty rainfall giving little relief to much of our region. Looking for methods to lessen the strain on pocket books and preparing for a new year that will hopefully be more comfortable for our industry; decisions about cow herd management are cropping up.  Feeding cows through the winter can easily become very expensive due to high hay prices coupled with high grain and by-product prices; here are a few management strategies to consider;

1. Culling poorer producing cow

2. Alternative feeding options

Here is an example of a typical culling order; within this order the first should be culled in any forage year due to the carrying cost of these ope cows.  The next step would be to comb through the last two groups on the list since they will require the most energy to maintain as well as late breeders generally are the least productive adults.

  1. Open old cows and replacement heifers
  2. Old unsound cows
  3. Any open cows
  4. Thin cows over 7 yrs of age
  5. Very late bred 2 year olds

After culling decisions have been made, feed management is the next task to minimize expense.  Below are a few strategies that may work throughout the winter.

  1. Using alternative grazing locations
    1. these may be unavailable due to drought conditions and lack of growth this past summer
  2. Obtaining hay
    1. insure that hay is tested, feeding 27 lbs of a 59% TDN and 9% CP would meet the needs of a 1200 lb cow in mid lactation
  3. Feeding a complete diet
    1. moving cows to either a sacrifice pasture or a moving cattle to a yard and feeding a complete diet may prove economical when grass land is not adequate or hay is priced above feeding costs
    2. Your Suther’s rep would be glad to have a ration formulated for you based upon current ingredient availability
  4. Limit feeding hay
    1. feeding a limited amount of forage (0.3 – .08 % of BW) with a grain supplement can also reduce forage demand
    2. Your Suther’s rep would also be glad to work on a strategy that would best fit your situation

When considering alternative feeding options be mindful to compute the extra labor costs that are associated with daily feeding into the situation when comparing to what the cost of the three options.  If you have any further questions feel free to contact your Suther’s representative for more information.

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