By Jeff Pastoor, Beef Technical Consultant
Last winter and spring we were reminded how important it is to be prepared with feed inventories. Cold wet weather and short feed supplies put stress on cows and we have seen the effects this summer with thin body conditions in some herds. With turnout delayed, many producers were faced with buying hay to keep the cows until pastures were suitable; due to tight supplies and increased demand hay had to be purchased at budget-busting prices. In addition, the harsh winter was hard on hay stands so we will continue to see a short supply of hay.
If corn ground is available, chopping corn silage is an excellent way to help stretch your hay supplies. Corn silage has the added benefit of bringing additional energy into the ration, making it easier to put body condition back on thin cows or to keep lactating cows in good condition. Due to the tonnage that can be harvested corn silage is also an excellent value and a good way to reduce daily feed costs.
If you are utilizing cover crops to add organic matter and control erosion and weeds, these can also be an excellent way to stretch your feed supplies. The nutrient profile of these grasses and small grains fit very well with the requirements of the gestating cow.
Another way to stretch your feed supplies is to find ways to need or useless. Reducing feed waste through better feed storage or the use of better feed bunks and bale rings can easily save 10-20% of your feed from reduced shrink. The use of a mixer wagon is another management tool that can stretch your feed supplies. A mixer wagon with scales allows us to be more accurate in delivering proper nutrition which can pay dividends in better milk production and rebreeding; using a mixer with scales also allows you to avoid overfeeding cows which is another form of wasted feed. Many producers have reported that after their first winter season of using a mixer wagon with scales, they had 30% of their regular feed inventory left over at turnout.
The use of QLF in your rations can also help you to stretch your feeds. Making sure you meet all of the nutritional needs of the cows with a properly balanced ration, allows their rumen to work more efficiently and using QLF in their ration makes it easier to meet all of those needs.
Planning your feed needs is a matter of running the rations you expect to use through the fall, winter and spring and totaling up the days and feed required for all of your cows. Our QLF Cow Balancing program can do this for you; here is an example of a typical Midwest feed plan that your QLF representative can help you with.