The latest in a series of snowstorms has many cattle producers scrambling to shore up hay and other feed supplies. “Producers already struggling due to the winter’s extreme cold and heavy snow are now faced with shortages in key roughages as they go through calving and await spring weather,” says Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University Extension Service beef cattle specialist.
The cold and snowy weather meant many cows consumed 30 per cent to 40 per cent more hay than normal to maintain body weight during the cold weather. This resulted in smaller-than-normal hay supplies as calving approached.
“Reports indicate hay supplies are tight in many areas of the state,” Lardy says. “However, you can provide other feedstuffs in an effort to stretch short hay supplies.”
Producers can use feed grains, such as corn or barley, or byproducts, such as distillers grains, wheat middlings, corn gluten feed, sugar beet pulp or barley malt sprouts, to stretch feed supplies, he says.
Research shows that, depending on feeding method, relatively high levels of these products can be used to replace forage in the diet and stretch tight hay supplies.
GOOD FENCES NEEDED
Feeding cattle rations with limited forage and increased levels of grain is one option. However, the strategy of limit feeding higher-concentrate diets requires careful ration management to execute successfully. In addition, when cows are limit fed high-grain or co-product rations, they will feel hungry, even when their nutrient needs are met. Consequently, tight fences will be required to keep the cows in their pen or pasture if this strategy is implemented.
Cereal grains should be coarsely ground and fed on a daily basis to reduce the risk of digestive upsets and metabolic disorders. Producers also should be sure to balance minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, as well as providing adequate vitamin A when feeding alternative feedstuffs.
When higher levels of grain are fed, the potential to reduce forage digestibility and predispose cows to metabolic disorders such as acidosis is a concern, so producers need to be cautious when utilizing grain or byproducts in cow diets, Lardy says.
Producers should be sure to meet the protein requirements of their cattle when feeding high levels of grain because the potential negative effects of starch on fibre digestion are greater when protein requirements are not met.
For more information on stretching hay supplies, as well as other advice on dealing with the effects of severe winter weather, visit NDSU Extension’s website at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/disaster/winterstorm.html.