More hay was baled in 2013 than in the drought of 2012. But quantity doesn’t equal quality.
By Duane Dailey, University of Missouri Extension
Temperatures drop, sunshine dims and pastures stop growing. That’s when cow nutrition becomes critical, says Justin Sexten, University of Missouri Extension beef nutritionist.
More hay was baled in 2013 than in the drought of 2012. But quantity doesn’t equal quality. Much of the hay may not contain enough nutrients.
Looking at hay-test reports, Sexten sees that lots of mediocre to bad hay was made this year. Spring rains at haying time delayed baling. Overmature hay has lower feed value.
There are options. Stockpiled pasture is first choice for quality winter feed, but that required action in August when cattle were removed from pastures and nitrogen fertilizer applied. Fall growth is left ungrazed until winter.
Another feed source is cornfield residue. Ear corn dropped at harvest and leaves and upper stalks provide nutrients for the herd. This may require added supplement for best usage.
"In Missouri, cornfields offer our most underused cattle feed," Sexten says. "Grazing stover requires fences and water. But where land was taken out of pasture to plant corn, there may be fences and water available."
Using a hot wire to allocate fresh feed every few days improves efficiency. However, Sexten says it’s important at this point to just get cattle into the cornfields. Cornstalks deteriorate quickly.
"Later, when producers learn the feed value of stover, they’ll improve grazing," he says. "For now, try it."
With increased use of herbicide-resistant corn, farmers learn the value of cattle picking up dropped corn. Next spring, that seed becomes a volunteer corn plant, a hard-to-kill weed.
The third feeding option is hay. This year, it may be bad hay.
It’s not too late to test hay to see how much supplement will be needed to produce the next calf crop.