By Ashley Nunnenkamp, Nebraska Cattlemen
Pumpkins are usually known for their use as Halloween décor, but their use as a cattle feed source is not uncommon.
"When times are tough, Nebraska ranchers need to get creative", says Michael Kelsey, Executive Vice President of Nebraska Cattlemen. Due to a shortage of forages and feedstuffs, Nebraska Cattlemen is encouraging cattle ranchers to be innovative this year in finding feed alternatives.
"There are several unique crops that are grown in Nebraska primarily for human consumption, but with this year’s past weather condition, they can be a viable feed source for livestock," says Karla H. Jenkins, University of Nebraska Extension Cow/Calf, Range Management Specialist.
One feed source that will be readily available, especially after October 31st, is pumpkins. Pumpkins are usually known for their use as Halloween décor, but their use as a cattle feed source is not uncommon. Data from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension shows that pumpkins are a good source of energy and adequate in protein for beef cattle. "Pumpkins are high in crude protein and DM digestibility, and also have high moisture content which makes them a great feed supplement when mixed with dry forages" says Jenkins.
Nebraska is home to many pumpkin growers across the state. These producers may have crops that could be purchased as feed supplement instead of being discarded. "This can definitely be a win-win for both the cattle and pumpkin producers, by adding value to a potential waste" says Kelsey. This is also a great opportunity for different areas of Nebraska agriculture to work together.
Other crops that can be incorporated in to cattle feed rations include field peas, dry edible beans, chicory, whole beets, and beet pulp. "Nebraska is very diverse in its agricultural crops, so this gives cattle ranchers the opportunity to think outside the box when it comes to securing feed sources for the upcoming winter months" says Jenkins.
For more information on the feed value of alternative crops, visit http://extension.unl.edu/publications.
Source: Nebraska Cattlemen