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Stocking Up On Winter Cattle Feed

winter cattle feed tips

red cow grazing cornstalksI almost hate to say it, but we could sure use a good snow. A nice shot of rain would be ideal, but we need any kind or precipitation; we are hurting for moisture in my neck of the woods. On the flip side, it’s been nice to have the cows out on cornstalks, where we don’t have to worry about chopping ice, feeding hay and scooping bunks.

Last year, we were able to graze corn stalks well into January, and if we don’t get any winter storms in the upcoming weeks, we are sitting well to graze through Christmas again this year. In the meantime, we are stockpiling winter cattle feed and plan to round out our feed supplies with liquid feed on straw bales.

Grazing cornstalks and cover crops are great ways to save money on costly winter beef cattle feed and hay. As the drought continues across the U.S., ranchers are starting to run short of pasture, hay and feed resources.

The drought has impacted two-thirds of the U.S. and one-third is still considered to be in severe drought. Even mainstream newspapers are starting to take notice of how the drought is impacting farmers and ranchers. The Kansas City Star recently reported on this topic.

“There's no grass for grazing on Debbie and Duane Blythe's ranch in Kansas' parched Flint Hills. Instead, their cattle nibble on the leafy tops of turnips the couple planted after harvesting their winter wheat. The Blythes are among thousands of farmers looking for alternative ways to feed their animals this winter after one of the worst droughts in the nation's history dried up grasslands in much of the country. The drought also cut hay production, making it harder and more expensive for farmers to buy supplemental feed.

“Many farmers and ranchers have already sold off animals they couldn't afford to feed, and they're now having to get creative in coming up with ways to feed those they have left. Turnips are nutritious, even if they seem like an odd choice for beef cattle feed, Debbie Blythe says. She and her husband usually grow almost all of the hay they need to feed 500 head of cows and calves on their ranch near White City. This year, however, they got only about two-thirds of the hay they normally would. To make up the difference, they planted turnips and chopped failed crops of corn and milo from their fields and those of their neighbors to make silage, a fermented feed that their cows ‘love to eat like candy,’ she says. They also cut the stalks left over after their wheat harvest for straw that they'll mix with higher quality feeds or supplements.”

In some areas, alfalfa hay is selling for $260-300/ton, and the situation will only become more drastic as feed resources run short during the winter months.

How is your winter feed situation? What are your tricks for stretching cattle feed supplies? Are you culling more cows this year as a result of the short feed situation?


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