Beef cow winter feed planning

Winter feed resources for beef cows.

Drought conditions in 2012 have many producers scrambling to source winter feed this fall. Here are five key steps to accomplish in November as recommended by Michigan State University Extension:

  1. Inventory your cow herd and all replacement stock you intend to overwinter
  2. Inventory all your feed resources on a dry matter basis
  3. Run projections using ration balancing software to establish dry matter requirements and match your feed resources to cow nutritional requirements based on average cow weights
  4. Evaluate cow body condition scores (BCS) and factor changes into your feeding system plan
  5. Process cows for annual parasite control, vaccination, pregnancy check, etc.

Beef cows are excellent at converting otherwise low-value commodities to energy. Non-traditional feed resource may be available in your area. These may include; crop residues, garden crops, grain screenings, etc. Look in your own neighborhood as many of these commodities are difficult to harvest or transport and may require some old-fashioned ingenuity to deliver to the feed bunk.

A spreadsheet is available to help producers compare energy and protein values for individual feedstuffs. Visit the Michigan State University Beef Team website to download the free Excel spreadsheet.

Feed is much easier to gather when the weather cooperates. Determining what additional feeds resources are needed now provides additional time to source feeds before inclement weather hits and avoids seasonal price risk. Planning ahead for winter feed needs should make spring calving time more enjoyable.

For additional cattle management resources, visit the MSU Beef Team website.

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