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By Amy VanDeBrake, Pierce County Agricultural Educator
Nutrient requirements vary dramatically among animals and are influenced by age, weight, stage of production, rate of growth, environmental conditions, breed, gender and other factors. As many farmers have trudged their way through the long winter, cool prolonged spring and the depths of the drought this summer drying up grazing pastures, many have felt the dramatically changing environmental conditions.
With the unfavorable seasons so far for 2013, many beef producers have been left with short pasture growth for grazing animals and with the winter kill; hay continues to be in short supply. Now more than ever it is important for Beef producers to look at the considerations for feeding their cows in the winter months to come.
Here are 5 important things to consider when selecting alternative feeding programs:
1) Know your cow’s needs. First start by analyzing your cows’ body condition score. Cows with a body condition score (BCS) of 3 will have a harder time producing enough energy through the winter months, and could experience later spring calving dates. However if a cow has a BCS of 6 one might take into consideration the extra input costs for feed, may experience reproductive problems and mobility challenges through the winter.
2) Test your feeds. With limited hay supplies and the ever increasing market cost of hay, many farmers have cut a plethora of CRP ground as well as lower production forages. With low relative feed values farmers should take into consideration supplementation of other feed stuffs to maintain BCS and overall health of animal.
3) Balance the ration. When balancing a ration it is imperative to analyze the cost savings both short and long term.
4) Evaluate feeds on nutritional values, cost value and how they complement your feed inventory and operations Nutrient requirements include those for protein, energy, vitamins, minerals, and water.
5) Storage considerations. When looking into your feeding options for this winter a good rule of thumb would be always consider how or where you are going to store your feed stuffs.
For more information about winter cow feeding considerations and for accessing a quick link to the University of Minnesota Beef Cow Ration Balancer excel spread sheet, visit http://pierce.uwex.edu/agriculture/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org