Short on hay this winter? Check out the suggestions below for ways to maintain your herd without affecting the quality and health of your livestock.
MINIMIZE HAY WASTE
Studies have found that 50% of all harvested hay is wasted. Improving your hay storage and feeding methods can help to greatly reduce the amount of hay wasted on your operation.
Cows consume about 25% extra dry matter while they’re nursing a calf. Weaning a calf early can allow farmers to reduce the amount of feed used or pasture grazed.
EVALUATE BODY CONDITIONS
Take a look at your herd’s body condition scores. If many of your cows have lower body condition scores, consider changing your ration or providing supplemental nutrition. If only a small percentage of the herd is looking thin, consider separating these cows and supplementing only this group’s ration.
Alternatively, cows that have high body condition scores will require more feed and may have reproductive or mobility issues.
It may be time to consider culling cows who are prone to health issues, including poor udder, teeth, or hoof quality, who have low production rates, or who are difficult to breed. Removing underperforming cows from your herd will save valuable feed resources for your more profitable livestock.
USE ALTERNATIVE FEEDS
High feed prices, concerns over forage quality, and limited feed availability can often force farmers to get creative with the food sources their livestock get their nutrients from – we’ve heard of farmers feeding everything from sawdust to candy to algae.
Producers who wish to stick to a more traditional, plant-based alternatives and byproducts for their herds may want to consider cornstalks or sprout fodder:
Often underutilizied, cornstalks can be a great feed alternative for many farmers who are looking to improve body condition scores. Whether baled or allowed to graze in the corn field, it is important to consider the nutritional requirements of your herd. Since cornstalks are not a high-quality feed, producers who feed cornstalks will often need to offer supplemental sources of protein and phosphorous with co-products, including distillers grains, brewers grains, corn gluten feed, and soy hulls.
Some farms are turning to sprouts for their rations. Investing in hydroponic sprout fodder systems, these farmers are able to grow their own fodder in a matter of days, saving tens of thousands of dollars on monthly feed expenses. Since the hydroponic system uses no chemicals, fertilizers, or soils to grow the sprouts, fodder may be a solution to high-cost organic feeds for organic beef and dairy producers. While experts remain skeptical of these systems, farmers and veterinarians assure that the cows are happy and healthy.
There are certainly a variety of other byproducts and co-products that may work for your operation. To find viable alternatives in your area, consult your nutritionist, feed mill operators, or University Extension specialists.
Potential feed ingredients should be evaluated on a cost per nutrient basis. To ensure a healthy diet for your herd, producers should review the nutrient values of all feed ingredients considered. Always consult your herd’s nutritionist before adjusting your livestock’s ration.
INVEST IN A PATZ VERTICAL MIXER
Whether you’ve invested your time and energy into growing your own forages or into ensuring you get the best prices on purchased commodities, make the most of your ingredients with a Patz Vertical Mixer! Versatile enough to handle a variety of feed ingredients, our Patent Pending Vortex™ screw and Raptor™ knives will ensure a consistent mix, regardless of batch size. The well-blended, palatable ration produced by a Patz Vertical Mixer allows you to incorporate more economically-priced alternatives without compromising herd health or production!
Contact your local Patz Mixer Dealer for a demo or to determine which Vertical Mixer Series best fits your feeding requirements.
References and related reading:
“Corn Stalk Grazing Calculator.” University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Henderson, Greg. “Winter Cow Feeding Strategies.” Drovers Cattle Network 11 Oct. 2012.
Radke, Amanda. “Winter Feed: Do You Have Enough To Feed Your Cows?” Beef Magazine 14 Nov. 2013.
Roybal, Joe. “Cornstalk Grazing Offers Potential For Winter Cattle Feed Savings.” Beef Magazine 19 Sept. 2012.
Shike, Jennifer. “Alternative winter feed sources for the cattle herd.” Southeast Farm Press. 3 Nov. 2011.
VanDeBrake, Amy. “Winter Cow Feeding Considerations for 2013.” University of Wisconsin Extension 4 Oct. 2013.
SEEING IS BELIEVING!
See what some of our satisfied customers have said about their Patz Vertical Mixers:
“We like the versatility to use a wide assortment of feeds – baleage, corn silage, bread, dry round bale hay, and high moisture corn. Plus, now we can incorporate long stemmed hay into our rations.”
– Alan Lendrum
Berne, New York
“We have reduced our hay cost at least 20% with our
Patz. Body condition is better and we can pay for
our mixer just in feed savings.”
– Jason Erickson
“As we go along, we try different ingredients to see if they work. You hear about new feed options, and if they’re affordable, you give them a try.”
– Stephen McDonald
New South Wales, Australia