HERE WE SNOW AGAIN!!!
Oh what a wonderful morning! Yeah, maybe in Florida! Here in North-East Pennsylvania, we woke up to another blizzard. This is the 3rd blizzard in 4 weeks for us cattlemen in Bradford County. As our forage supplies run low, and our neighbors have run out, we are all forced to look both at our herd health requirements and feed intake estimates from last summer/fall. We plan for approx. 120 days of needing to feed stored hay each winter. So why did our neighbors run out of forages already? Was it colder than normal this winter? Did the cattle have deeper snow to go through to get to stockpiled forages? Were the round bales used to supplement the stockpiled forages not as tight as they should or could have been? The answer is yes to all of those questions!
We gladly helped our neighbor with hay to help keep their herd fed while they looked for additional feedstuff’s. And as we all know, now is not the best time to be looking for dry/quality hay. Ask anyone who sell’s it! They expect buyers to pay top dollar for hay in March and April. Around here, we’re lucky if we have adequate pastures to turn our cattle out on by June 1st. So running out of hay almost 2 ½ months early is a BIG set-back for any operation. That’s not the way anyone wants to start a fi$cal year.
Luckily our neighbor doesn’t have a cow/calf operation. They raise feeders that have adequate winter back fat, are more than 12 months old and aren’t expecting any calves. On the other side of the fence however, our herds intake requirements have increased due to calving season having begun last weekend. Not to mention the heavy snow conditions we’ve been experiencing recently, that has increased forage intake in everyone’s cattle. It's no secret for some of us that cows need more nutritional energy in colder/snowier weather. But some folks are still struggling with that thought process. We 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. And since most of us have "smart phones" now, it’s easier to pull up the wind chills in our area from the weather channel or national weather service.
Another hopefully obvious fact, is that energy requirements 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 (lower critical temperature) 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 ranch range. 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.
The more common-sense approach (which is usually not obvious to some), 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 a 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 due to spoilage if stored outdoors.
(figure approx. 10%)