For Winter Feeding
There’s a pretty dramatic shortage of hay and straw for sale this fall. This may force some cowmen to come up with plan ‘B’ for wintering their cows. Tight supplies may force you to buy hay or straw from a different location or of a type of which you have no experience. Time for an early plug for Feed Testing: knowing what nutrients are in your feeds can save thousands of dollars in maintaining productivity of the herd and in purchasing the correct supplement to match the needs of the cows.
Here’s a simple example. I have 100 cows and guess that I need a protein supplement to go with my hay. I buy supplement from Dec 1st until March 31st. I feed the protein supplement at 1 lb/cow/day. Protein supplements cost from about $300/ton to $550/ton. We’ll use the average of those prices for our example. $425/ton = $.213/lb x 100 cow x 1 lb/day x 121 days. My cost is $2577.30. My wealthy neighbor has his hay tested and determines that he has enough protein in his hay, so all he needs is a vitamin-mineral-salt mix. This costs him $500/ton. His cows eat 2 oz of this daily. $500/ton = $.25/lb x 100 cow x 2 oz x 121 days = $378.13. He paid $2199.17 less for his supplement...and now we know why he’s so darn rich!
In last month’s
column I described limit feeding for calves. This is when a high energy
finishing ration is fed at a reduced amount to achieve a certain rate
of gain. This program can also be used for cows. Instead of feeding
30 lb of hay, a high energy mix of grain and hay (for instance 75% grain
and 25% hay) is fed at 20 lb. The cows are fed the same amounts of protein,
energy, vitamins and minerals. They just get it in fewer daily pounds
of feed. They will be hungry! But they will not lose weight or have
unusual problems when calving or suffer any delay in breeding back.
One of the ways to winter cows is to stockpile forage and allow them to graze rather than baling it and feeding it to them. Stockpiling can be as simple as not grazing or haying a field in the spring or summer, then allowing livestock to graze it in the fall and winter.
to do this is to cut and windrow the forage and allow the livestock
to graze the windrows in fall and winter. Windrowing immediately after
cutting seems to work best in forming a dense windrow that resists wind
damage. Using electric fence to confine animals to several days forage
seems to reduce the waste more than allowing the animals to graze the
entire field for weeks or months.
In other areas
of the U.S. and Canada, grain or other annual crops are planted specifically
for fall and winter grazing. Perennial grasses are also managed for
fall grazing. The
plant varieties of forage triticale for grazing calves during the fall
and winter. This crop is planted under irrigation following early crops
such as carrots or grain.
grass seed straws can be fed to cows in place of part of the hay. The
perennial varieties of bluegrass, ryegrass, bentgrass, and fescue have
more protein than
After years of feeding grass seed straws and screenings with very few endophyte problems, the law of averages seems to have caught up with us. We have seen more endophyte and ergot problems in the last few years. Bluegrass is not supposed to be contaminated with endophytes. However, turf varieties of ryegrass and fescue have these fungi. The endophytes are primarily found in the seed head, but we have seen reports of their presence in young growing fescue and in straw. If you feed grass seed screenings it would definitely pay to have them tested. If you test before you begin feeding then you will have numbers to use for figuring out how much of that particular feed you could use without getting in trouble.
Samples can be sent to: Morrie Craig Lab, OSU Vet Diagnostic Lab, 30th and Washington Way, MacGruder Hall, OSU, Corvallis, OR 97331. Call the lab for sample care and shipping info. The number is 503-737-2872. The other lab that tests for endophytes is located at the Univ. of Missouri, Vet Med Diagnostic Lab. Attn: Dr. Tim Evans, 1600 Rollins, Columbia, MO 65211. Phone number is 573-884-9270.
Dr. David Bohnert, from the Eastern Oregon Ag Experiment Station in Burns gave an excellent presentation at the Pacific Northwest Animal Nutrition Conference last week on work done with grass seed straw at that station and at Union Oregon. One very important point he made was that the toxins in grass straw are not uniformly dispersed through a field. This means that you could do an excellent job of sampling the bales you buy and still have more or less endophyte than the lab finds in your sample. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t sample, but if your sample comes back showing a low level of endophyte toxin, don’t just assume that all is ok. It still pays to watch the cows daily and if any show up lame or with sore feet, find out whether it’s foot rot or fescue foot. They look quite different. The following table shows toxic levels for the different alkaloids in different farm animals.
NOTE; IN COLD
WEATHER, MUCH LOWER LEVELS OF ERGOVALINE MAY CAUSE PROBLEMS.
If you’re forced into changing the way you winter your cattle, investigate the new feed or wintering area long before it’s time to feed. Hopefully this will provide you with an opportunity to foresee and correct problems before they turn into disasters.
Michael J. Mehren, Ph.D. finds straw a much better tool for sipping cold drinks than for eating. He may be contacted by Email @ email@example.com.