According to Kansas State University extension specialist Dale Blasi, half of the expense from raising beef calves through weaning is winter feed costs. While buying feed is inevitable for many producers, it may be possible to eliminate overfeeding and reduce feed waste, thus lowering feed costs. Conducting an evaluation of your operation’s current feeding methods can help you discover where opportunities for improved feeding efficiency exist.
It is recommended that producers evaluate their winter feeding methods each year. Some things to keep in mind are:
- Set them up for success.
Good body condition in the fall can help cows through a difficult winter.
- Group cows by nutritional need.
Separating cows based on dietary needs will help ensure you are not over or underfeeding. Providing individual groups with customized rations will ensure each cow gets the nutrition they need to thrive.
- Limit forage access to reduce waste.
Cattle that have unlimited access to feed can waste up to 1/3 of the hay offered. These cows are more likely to trample hay, overeat, or use the forages for bedding. Limiting the amount of feed offered can help curb wasted feed.
- Stretch ingredients further.
Using a vertical mixer will allow you to use less forages and incorporate alternative feeds, by-products, or lower-quality ingredients into a nutritious ration.
Source: Woolsey, Cassidy. “Producers should self-evaluate winter feeding annually.” Progressive Cattleman 24 Oct. 2014.