A few ways to stretch the haystack

| February 20, 2008 | 0 Comments

By David Burton

For many farmers the hay stack looks a lot smaller this year than it has in years past. But unless a producer is planning on getting out of the business they might want to consider how they’re going to stretch that hay stack until spring.

Here are a few things worth considering according to Wesley Tucker, agriculture business specialist, University of Missouri Extension. While Missouri might seem a world away to NZ farmers, there are still a few tips, or food for thought, in this…

1. CULL COWS THAT ARE NOT PULLING THEIR WEIGHT.

Tucker says most producers have more than one cow that would fall into one of these three categories: open, old and ornery.

“Whether it’s because she’s not breed or because she takes the rest of the herd to the opposite corner of the pasture, this might be the year to get rid of the ones that aren’t making the cut,” said Tucker.

The easiest way to stretch the hay stack is reduce the number of mouths to feed. This year more than ever a timely pregnancy exam will pay for itself.

2. EARLY WEANING WILL HELP STRETCH HAY STACK.

No matter when a producer’s cows are calving, early weaning may be something to consider this year. Weaning a calf reduces a cow’s energy requirements by as much as 25 percent.

“Research has shown that calves weaned early are actually less likely to get sick because they still possess some of their mother’s immunity. Light weight calves are also much more efficient at converting grain to gain than their older counterparts,” said Tucker.

Early weaning also gives producers a better chance of getting the cow rebred on limited forages.

3. USE STRIP GRAZING TO STRETCH ALL AVAILABLE FORAGES.

An investment in a battery powered electric fence charger and a few step in fence posts will pay for themselves many times over the fall.

One of the greatest benefits of fescue, according to Tucker, is the waxy cuticle on the outside of the leaf that develops in the fall to protect itself from the weather. As long as this outer coating is not disturbed most of the nutrients will remain in the plant.

However, if cattle are allowed to roam the field and step on the plant, once the coating is broken the nutrients leach out.

4. SUBSTITUTE FOR HAY WITH GRAIN.

A 480kg cow needs a minimum of 2.8kg of long forage to maintain proper rumen functions. That’s a little over 0.5 percent of her body weight. Once that minimum is met a cow’s protein and energy requirements can come from other sources.

“As the price of hay continues to escalate it may become cost effective to substitute grain or grain by-products into the diet,” said Tucker.

Grains such as corn, milo, wheat, and wheat midds are starchy feeds. These feeds should not exceed 1.5kg per day for yearling cattle or 2.5kg per day for adult cows.

Other options include by-product feeds and concentrate feeds.

5. FEED COWS ONLY WHAT THEY NEED.

Once a cow’s nutrient requirements are met, everything else is luxury consumption.

“Cows are like you and me, just because she eats what you put in front of her doesn’t mean she needs it,” said Tucker.

The first step toward making sure you are feeding what is needed is to get a feed sample tested then a producer can compare exactly what nutrients a cow is getting versus her requirements.

“If the herd’s requirements are being met with two bales a day, there’s no reason to put out a third, even if they try to convince you they need it,” said Tucker.

Category: Focus

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