Ag Notes, Jan. 30

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Adjust feeding strategies when temps drop

When the bite of winter takes hold, forage intake can rise by 30 percent. Beef animals use most of their additional intake to meet the higher maintenance requirement imposed by colder temperatures.

Cattle with a full rumen generate heat and energy that can help the animal achieve a more desirable temperature. But forage quality plays an important role. Depending on the quality forage and the magnitude of the cold, hay alone may or may not meet the animal’s higher energy requirement.

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Though forage consumption rises during cold weather, feeding only low-quality forage that is less than 52 percent total digestible nutrients (TDN) will not meet the cow’s energy requirements. As animals consume larger amounts of low quality hay, compaction of the digestive tract can occur.

If low-quality hay is the only source available, it is important to provide a fiber-based energy supplement such as soyhulls or corn gluten feed, to help address nutrient deficiencies.

The best approach to meet the higher energy needs is to provide free-choice, moderate to good-quality hay that is over 52 percent TDN. It’s also suggested boosting any energy supplement by 20 to 30 percent during cold, wet weather.

 As an additional suggestion, provide feed in late afternoon or early evening. Heat production by the animal occurs four to six hours after consumption. Therefore, provide feed before temperatures reach their lowest point for the day.

Some beef producers choose to stretch hay supplies by limiting the time animals have access to the feeder or reducing the amount of hay that is actually fed.

Limit-feeding hay is not a recommended practice during extreme weather conditions.

Animals need free-choice access to hay during periods of environmental stress. Once temperatures moderate, limit-feeding hay may be an option when using mid- to high-quality forage. It’s not a beneficial practice if low-quality forage is being offered to cows.

As we enter the dog days of winter, feeding strategies won’t be the same for every farm, however, it’s likely that ration adjustments will need to be made on most operations. What those adjustments will be hinge largely on the quality of forage being offered.

For more information on Beef Cattle Management contact the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Office.

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Jerry Little, County Extension Agent for Agriculture/Natural Resources