If drought is playing out your pasture, Rick Rasby, University of Nebraska beef specialist, offers the following feeding and supplementation advice for those looking to feed corn:
In limit-feeding corn to cattle in drylot, be sure to allow plenty of bunk space to ensure all cattle have the opportunity to feed (24-36 in./head, perhaps more with bigger cows).
The following ration recommendations are based on feeding situations where no pasture is available. The concentrate part of the ration supplies the energy and protein needs, while a low-quality forage ensures that rumen health isn't compromised.
If using a low-quality hay for the forage source, Rasby recommends including a supplement with an ionophore calibrated to deliver 200-250 mg/head/ day to each cow. The ionophore will help reduce digestive problems and increase feed efficiency.
Because these rations are supplying all of cattle's daily nutrient requirements, Rasby recommends feeding twice/day - mornings and evenings - for the first week, feed half of the ration at each feeding to allow cows' rumens to adapt. After a week, it's likely more economical to feed the ration once/day, he says.
If corn gluten feed or soy hulls are substituted for grain, an ionophore isn't necessary. The corn gluten feed may be dry or wet, but account for the moisture if feeding wet product. Corn gluten can replace corn or milo on a pound-for-pound basis, but be sure to account for the product's moisture. Half the grain part of these rations could be replaced with soy hulls. If using distillers grains, feed a maximum of 7 lbs./head/day on a dry matter basis. When using gluten or distillers, phosphorus supplementation isn't needed; if fed instead of corn, a protein supplement isn't necessary.
If feeding gluten or distillers, Rasby says a high-quality forage such as alfalfa isn't necessary.
When feeding whole corn, include 10-12 lbs.,/head/day on an as-fed basis, along with 2-2.5 lbs. of a 38% supplement (with ionophore), 6 lbs. of low-quality hay, and salt and mineral free-choice, for a 18-20 lbs./head/day total ration.
For cows whose calves have been weaned, Rasby recommends 10-12 lbs. of whole corn/head/day on as as-fed basis, with 2 lbs. of a 38% supplement, 6 lbs. of low-quality hay, and salt and mineral free-choice, for a total ration of 16-18 lbs./head/day.
The low-quality hay can be any of last year's carry-over hay, but if the hay is very low quality, protein will be needed. If 6-8 lbs./head/day of alfalfa is included in the whole-corn diets, a protein supplement isn't needed.
Because the diets are limit-fed, it may take time for cows to adapt to the feeding program, Rasby says, so add 3-4 lbs/head/day of a low-quality forage as a filler.
-- Rick Rasby, University of Nebraska-Lincoln animal science professor