Tips to help you (and your herd), to beat old man winter.
Plan ahead now 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 supplemental hay purchases, chances are so does everyone else! And with the way hay isn’t growing this year (at least in the North/East), hay will be very expensive to buy when you run out in January or February.
Here's an example of how to roughly estimate your herds hay/grass needs as an initial way of checking the adequacy of your banked hay in your hay mow.
If you do any rotational grazing, winter is the best time of the year to review next seasons grazing program! 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 or dry matter (hay), is a BIG difference!
Now is the best time of the year to review your paddock layout and size of 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 you can determine a "ballpark" figure of nutrients recieved from grazing.
As I’ve stated previously, if you are just developing a grazing program for next season, start with an aerial photo (available on Googlemaps), 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. Permanent fencing and gates for the animal alleyway can be erected when you feel the system is working. Good luck and let's get going because snow could be on the way within the next week & a half in our neck of the woods!
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 hair coat.
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 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.
Cows on large "Ranch" style operations (500 head +), 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.
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%)