Carl Sackreiter

By Carl Sackreiter

It’s the time of the year to get the calves weaned if we haven’t already and start thinking about what we are going to feed the beef cows.   We spent all summer and fall trying to put up good quality forages for our beef cows.

Winter feeding takes up over half of the feed costs.  Minimizing our feed waste and maximizing our feed value of our ingredients will help keep beef cows in good condition throughout the winter.

“Hay stored outside usually has more spoilage during storage and lower palatability than hay stored inside,” says Robert Kallenbach, University of Missouri Extension agronomist. That presents further challenges in feeding.  “Cattle will waste a greater percentage of poor-quality hay than they will good-quality hay. Animals fed high-quality hay early in the season will often refuse poor-quality hay when it is offered later,” Kallenbach says.

Research conducted at the University of Tennessee (UT) a few years ago studied hay losses in storage. The research compared different methods of storing large round bales of grass hay.  The hay was cut and baled in June in Moore County, TN. The bales were weighed at the time of harvest and storage, then weighed again the following January at the time of winter feeding.

Different storage methods were used, and testing indicated the level of feed quality losses using each. Here’s how various storage methods of large round bales fared in the UT research:

Stored on the ground with no cover, 37% loss.  Stored on tires with no cover, 29% loss.  Stored on the ground and covered, 29% loss.  Stored on tires and covered, 8% loss.  Net wrapped and on the ground, 19% loss. Stored in the barn, 6% loss.

The research shows that losses can be significant depending on the type of storage used. The data also suggest that storage losses occur from moisture getting into both the top, and bottom of the bales. Thus, if hay can’t be stored inside a barn, the next best option is to at least get the hay off the ground and under a tarp or plastic cover. Kallenbach says more than 50% of harvested hay is wasted by either poor storage methods, improper feeding practices, or both.

He suggests the following steps:

  1. Feed hay in small amounts or in a feeder to minimize waste. When fed a limited amount of hay at a time, cattle have less opportunity to trample and soil the hay. Feeding hay in a rack or a “hay ring” also limits the opportunity that animals will trample or soil hay, and will reduce waste substantially if you intend to provide more than a day’s worth of hay at one time.
  2. Feed hay in well-drained areas.
  3. If you intend to feed hay in a single location all winter, provide a footing such as crushed gravel or concrete to help minimize mud. Perhaps more cost effective is to move hay-feeding areas around the farm to minimize the damage to any one area of the pasture.
  4. Feed hay stored outside before hay stored inside. Information pulled from Beef Magazine

We also have some great products for feeding beef cows with a TMR.    We can customize your mineral with Rumensin to help with feed efficiency throughout the winter.  Research has been done at NDSU looking at the cost savings per cow by using Rumensin in the TMR diets for Beef Cows.   Studies have shown approx. $13.20 per head savings.  Here is a link to an article on Rumensin feeding.

So, in summary if we change our storage strategy of storing our forages, sampling our feed stuffs, and use some technology such as Rumensin in our mineral we can have significant savings in feeding cows this winter.   Please contact me or LeeAnn Waugh to formulate rations for your beef cows this winter.

Also, check out this link to a feeder cattle break-even calculator on the QLF website here.