With the cold temperatures that many areas recently experienced, the thought of winter feeding has become more of a reality to some. As pre-conditioning shots, weaning and winter cow feeding programs begin to take place, there is a need to be aware of steps to ensure the best performance for the cow herd. By planning ahead, producers can alleviate some potential problems down the road.
Below are tips to develop the winter feeding program:
- Inventory available feed resources (see iGrow article on Feed Inventory)
- Determine overall needs of the herd, both quantity and quality based on the current body condition score of the cows. If cows are thin, immediately after weaning is the easiest and cheapest time to put weight on the cows.
- Determine nutrient deficiencies. This can be achieved by comparing feed quality from a laboratory analysis to animal needs. A ration-balancing program is a valuable tool to make this determination and to evaluate options to overcome deficiencies.
- Determine available feed options to overcome deficiencies. This year, depending on proximity to an ethanol plant, it seems as though distiller’s grains plus solubles could be the cheapest protein source available, even when compared to alfalfa.
- Calculate feeds on a cost per unit of nutrient basis. For example, if protein is deficient, determine the price on a cost per unit of protein basis. This will allow an equal comparison between feeds. This calculation is $ per ton/ % dry matter / % crude protein. An example is distiller’s grains at $90 per ton. It would be $90/89%/29%=$171.40 per ton of protein. Alfalfa hay at 15% protein at a cost of $80 per ton would be, $80/89%/15%=$599.25 per ton of protein. If all feeds are purchased, compare hays on a cost per unit of energy basis to determine which hay is going to be the most economical for the operation.
- Select feeds that do not require new capital investments for equipment to handle the feeds. Keep in mind delivery costs and labor associated with each feed. Remember that protein supplements do not have to be delivered on a daily basis. See the publication on Reducing Costs of Delivering Feed to Cattle—Supplementation Frequency.
- Once feeds have been selected, balance a ration to determine the total quantity needed of each feed for the entire feeding period. Be sure to account for waste and colder temperatures. Waste should be calculated at 10-20% depending on how hay is processed and fed. As temperatures drop below 32°F, energy requirements increase by 1% for every degree below 32°. If cattle are wet, energy requirements begin increasing at 59°F by 2% for every degree below 59°. A ration balancing program or help from an Extension Field Specialist should be used to determine needs. One program that is a free download and user friendly is OSU Cowculator. For more information on this program and how to use it, please see the iGrow article OSU Cow-culator-Ration Analysis Software.
To ensure the productivity of the cow herd into the next calving season, it is key to plan the winter feeding program so that it will meet the nutrient requirements of the animals and reach performance goals. With the current market situation, producers can’t afford to let nutrition be the factor that inhibits production.
For help in determining winter feeding needs contact Adele Harty at 605.394.1722.