Winter Feeding Decisions for the Cow Herd

November 29, 2010 03:35 AM

During most winters, hay is an adequate choice to meet nutritional needs of gestating beef cows when fed free choice. However, this summer’s continual rain in states like Iowa caused over-mature or otherwise damaged hay resulting in decreased feed value.

Iowa State University Extension beef specialist and Iowa Beef Center IBC interim director Dan Loy said the problem is widespread.

“Almost one-half of the forage samples submitted to date through our forage testing project are marginal in energy and nearly 20 percent are marginal in meeting the protein needs of a mature beef cow in late gestation,” Loy said. “It’s important to know the nutritional value of your available forages so you can make good feed and feeding decisions this winter.”

ISU Extension and IBC are hosting meetings in several Iowa locations this winter designed to help producers learn how to make these nutrition-based decisions. In addition to providing a current summary of the forage testing project and to-date results, ISU Extension beef program specialists will present information on allocating feed inventory, sample rations to meet cow nutrient needs and tools to control feed cost and waste.

“The specialists also will work through various ration examples using results from the forage test project and the Beef Ration and Nutrient Decision Software, or BRaNDS, from IBC,” Loy said. “The beef cow is an amazing animal that’s able to utilize almost any forage as long we know the nutrient content and balance it correctly. We’ll work with you to design the rations that meet the needs of your herd.”

To find the location of a winter feeding decisions meeting near you, check the IBC website at or contact your county ISU Extension office.

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