Have you heard the latest price of hay! Whether your barn is full
of it, you're trying to sell it, or are looking like mad for a source
of it; Hay and its price is the hottest topic of conversation at
any farm gathering. So with availability down and up, how we get
the best use out of our forages is the next best topic of conversation.
So in no particular order please consider the following
- Inventory what you do have
this includes the number of
bales, and what they weigh = # of lbs of hay, of what types (the
good, the bad, and the gut fill)
- Test the major forage
This is not the year to feed based
on "I think that it's pretty good hay". If a $35 test
lets you save 1 lb of hay/cow/day at $.06/lb on 50 cows = $3/day.
- Figure out what your inventory will carry. Cut to that number
or figure out your alternatives NOW. Failing to plan now is how
we get thin cows and humane society calls in February and March.
- Consider buying gates so you can split the cows into 2 feeding
groups (the very needy and the not so needy) and feed accordingly.
- If you can't or won't split the group, ship the thin cows, timid
cows and young cows that won't compete for feed.
- Take a hard look at your feeders. Do they waste a lot of hay?
Can they be modified? Do you have enough feeder space? When on
a restricted diet, it's important that they all can feed at once.
- Consider what other forage feedstuffs are out there. Cereal
straw can be fed as PART of a ration. Limit to 12-14 lbs to avoid
impaction of the rumen. Make sure protein levels are adequate
and lots of water is available.
- Consider if there is a way to use corn stalks. As grazing? Hay?
- Consider Soy and Canola straw. They probably won't eat these
unless they can be chopped and mixed with other forage, but use
them for bedding, and they will pick at them.
- Use bedding. Lack of bedding increases energy needs by 10-15%
(that's 1-2 lbs grain or 2-3 lbs good hay/cow/day). Consider anything
that gets them off the cold ground or manure. Soy straw, canola
straw, corn stalks, bark or sawdust.
- It looks like using grain to replace SOME hay may be a $$ wise
decision. You will need to price out the costs on a lb of nutrient
base. Five-six lbs of corn may replace 8-10 lbs of hay but it
will need to be worked out for your set-up.
- Don't get carried away with grain however. Once you go over
10-12% of the diet (2-3 lbs/1000 lb of body weight) you will depress
- If considering grain
will you buy from the mill, off
the combine? Where and how will you feed it?
- If your hay is really tough fibers and low in protein, a protein
supplement will help to drive the rumen and increase digestibility
of your forage.
- Many mills offer beef pellets. These can be good, but shop around
for price and content. A pellet is not a pellet is not a pellet.
- Go for a Fat Fall. Try to fatten them up in the fall period
to save on energy needs in the winter. A fat cow has 6% lower
energy needs than a thinner lady. A cow in good shape can lose
10-15% of her body weight from fall to spring. But this requires
- Pray for an Easy Winter, and Early Spring! But get yourself
prepared none the less. Or as an old Arabian proverb puts it
"Trust in Allah, but tie your camel."
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300