Dealing with Feed Shortages on Your Beef Farm

Dry weather during summer or spring can lead to possible feed shortages. The following decision making process may help assess your individual situation in dealing with a shortage of feed.

Step 1: Do I Have A Problem?

  1. What are your feed requirements?
  2. Do an inventory of livestock by class - cows with calves, weaned calves, open cows, yearlings.
  3. Estimate forage feed requirements of each group, based on your normal feeding practices - for budgeting purposes use 2.5% of animal body weight for roughage feed intake per day on a dry matter basis.
  4. Estimate grain and supplement needs based on your normal feeding programs.
  5. Inventory the feed you have available for the next month, and over the next year.
  6. How do your feed requirements compare with the feed supply? Is there a shortage of feed? If yes:

Step 2: How Are You Going To Make Up the Shortfall?

  1. Move animals to a different geographic area that has feed resources readily available? There may be opportunities to have livestock custom grazed or custom fed in a cost effective manner.
  2. Identify any potential feed sources on the farm: grain corn harvested as silage, graze corn stover, summer seeded cereals or brassicas for fall pasture.

  3. Buy Feed: what is available and at what cost? Forages, grains, grain screenings and many by-product feeds are potential options. Transportation is a major consideration, along with storage and shelf life for high moisture products.
  4. Sell livestock. Generally it would be recommended to sell in this order: First, cull cows and bulls; second yearlings; next calves; last, bred cows.

Each farm will have a unique situation which will require individual assessment to determine the actions which will best suit their management and personal objectives.

Example for Determining Livestock Inventory and Feed Supply:

Animal Inventory

#

Wt Lbs.

Total Wt, Lbs.

Daily DM, Lbs.

Monthly DM,
Lbs.

Cows

20

1,500

30,000

750

22,500

Yearlings

20

900

18,000

450

13,500

Total lbs. of Intake

------------------------

1,200

36,000


Feed Inventory

Unit
Amounts

Total

Lbs. DM @ 85 %

Pasture
(animal days)

0

0

----------

Hay On Hand (lbs AF)

200 X 1,000 (lbs)

200,000

170,000

170,000 Lbs. of Hay / 36,000 Total Monthly Dry Matter Required = 4.7.

Therefore, there is enough feed in inventory to feed these cattle for about 4.7 months (not accounting for gain on the yearlings).

It is now August 1 so this provides feed till mid-December.

If the yearlings are sold now, there is enough feed to carry the cows only for 7.5 months or until the middle of March. Is there an opportunity to buy feed to carry these cows to pasture in mid-May? If not then the number of cows needs to be reduced.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Jack Kyle - Grazing Specialist/OMAFRA; Tom Hamilton - Beef Cow Calf Production Lead/OMAFRA; Barry Potter, Livestock Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 01 August 2007
Last Reviewed: 6 July 2012