Cattle and drought: Part II

By Tom Rison - Extension Agent

Another means of extending hay resources is to limit-feed cattle based upon their nutrient requirements. Nutrient requirements are dependent upon body weight, stage of production, and production goals. Limit feeding the amount of hay and other supplemental feeds necessary to meet nutrient requirements will almost always conserve hay or pasture resources. However this requires a more intensive level of management, and thus a greater amount of time and labor resources.

Limit-feeding requires that we have our cattle separated into groups based on their nutritional requirements. Dry cows and bulls have lower nutritional needs than lactating cows, replacement heifers, and growing calves. This may present a problem on farms with little interior fencing but electric fence chargers and temporary fence can create more paddocks quickly as long as access to water can be maintained.

In order to limit-feed hay without sacrificing production, it is first necessary to conduct a forage analysis. This will tell you the actual nutritional content of your hay. The Extension Office has a hay auger that can take hay samples from round bales. Then I can consult with UT Nutritionist Dr. Jason Smith to determine the amount of hay and supplemental feedstuffs required to meet nutrient requirements in the most economical way possible. The specific amount of each will depend upon a number of factors, and varies widely across producers.

Hay will need to be fed daily when limit-fed. If you are in a situation where you cannot feed daily, limit-feeding may not be an option. Supplemental feedstuffs that are high in protein and/or fiber, such as distiller’s grains, corn gluten feed, cottonseed meal, soybean meal and soyhulls can be fed daily or on alternate days. Supplemental feedstuffs that are high in starch, such as corn, wheat, barley and hominy feed, need to be fed daily.

Keep in mind that surviving the tough times takes more thought and management than the easy times of the past three years. Study your options and stay tuned for more drought-related articles.

By Tom Rison

Extension Agent

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