Plan ahead for winter feeding/grazing! Once bad weather hits, many chances of finding
"economical" hay and baled grasses are at a minimum. If you need to make supplimental hay purchases, chances
are so does everyone else!
Here's an example of how to roughly estimate your herds hay/grass needs as an initial way of checking
the adequecy of your banked hay in the mow (baled).
For a feeding period of............................................... 3 months
Number in your herd.................................................... 25
Weight of each cow/heifer/steer................................1,100lbs.
Daily intake..................................................................2 1/2% of total body weight
(approx. 27 1/2lbs a day!).
Take the length of the feeding period, multiplied by the number of cattle, multiplied once again by the
hay intake per pound.......That's 61,875lbs!!!
Not taking into account any waste hay that can't be fed. (figure approx. 10%)
Managing Cows For Cold Weather Stress
It's no secret that cows need more
nutritional energy in colder weather. Ruminant nutritionists have used the rule of thumb that a cow's energy requirements
increase 1% for each degree the wind chill is below the 32°F. lower critical temperature (LCT) for cows with a dry winter
Research indicates energy requirements for maintenance of beef cows with a wet hair coat is much greater.
Cows exposed to falling precipitation and having wet hair coats are considered to have reached the LCT at 59° F. In addition,
the requirements change twice as much for each 1° change in wind-chill factor -- with the energy requirement actually increasing
2% for each degree below 59° F.
This amount of energy change is often impossible to accomplish with feedstuffs available
on ranches. In addition, this amount of energy change in the diet of cows accustomed to a high roughage diet must be made
very gradually to avoid severe digestive disorders.
Therefore, the more common-sense approach, says Glenn Selk, Oklahoma
State University Extension cattle specialist, is to provide a smaller increase in energy requirements during wet cold weather
and extend the increase into improving weather to help regain energy lost during the storm.
He says cows consuming
16 lbs. of grass hay/day and 5 lbs. of 20% range cubes can be increased to 20 lbs. of grass hay/day plus 6-7 lbs. of range
cubes during the severe weather event. Extending this amount for a day or two after the storm may help overcome the energy
loss during the storm in a manner that doesn't cause digestive disorders.
If you do any grazing, winter is the best time of the year to review your grazing program! Graziers
know that there will be some variation with consumption and nutrient levels, but knowing if your cattle are consuming 15 pounds
compared to 25 pounds of forage dry matter is a BIG difference!
Now is the best time of the year to review your paddock layout and size each paddock. I suggest that
you put posts that will section off 1, 2 and/or 3 acre paddocks, depending on the size of your herd. This way you can
use temporary fencing to graze paddocks of a specific size. This is essential as you determine forage quantities
before and after grazing.
By utilizing the figure of 1" growth per acre equals approx. 200-400 lbs. of forage dry matter (depending
on forage species), you will be able to arrive at a reasonable figure of lbs. of dry matter consumed. Than, working
with your nutrionist and using actual forage sample figures, you can determine a "ballpark" figure of nutrients recieved from
If you are just developing your grazing program, start with an aerial photo of your grazing area to see
how animal movement and paddock layout could best be managed. Next using temporary flags or stakes, outline each paddock
and the animal alleyways with proposed gates. Permanant fencing and gates for the animal alleyway can be erected when
you feel the system is working.
Clyde Myers, Retired PSU Extension Educator in Berks County, PA