COW-CALF MANAGEMENT FOR DECEMBER
December is a critical time for cow-calf producers. How critical depends primarily on the weather. December can be a “tricky” month when it comes to weather. The latter part of November is a good example and the variation in temperature, rainfall and as this is being prepared, snow is in the forecast for parts of the state. The weather will dictate the start of winter feeding. With a mild December, feeding can be delayed due to the availability of some grass. A few days of grazing can lower the winter feed bill. The next four months, December through March, is the most expensive phase in the production of feeder calves. This due to the fact that most cattle producers feed hay as the winter feed source. Wasted hay means reduced returns and profitability.
A University of Missouri worker reported that 50% of the hay harvested is never consumed by the cattle. Regardless of the weather or challenges in feeding, there are still basic management practices that need to be carried out with cow-calf herds. If heifers and young cows are not separated from older cattle, they may be pushed aside when given supplemental feeds and they may not receive the protein or energy they require. If producers need to purchase hay or other feed resources, do it soon because it will be more expensive as the winter progresses.
Approximately 2.25-2.50 tons of good quality hay will be needed to winter one animal unit (1,000 lbs) for 150 days. If practices are not followed to reduce waste during feeding, this can increase from 2.9-3.3 tons of hay.
Corn, corn gluten, and soy hulls are alternative feeds to substitute for forage. Consider the cost of transportation, storage as well as feeding methods of these feeds. With hay purchase and that on-hand, have a forage test done on both sources. Soybean meal is an excellent protein source with low-quality forages, because approximately 80 percent of the soybean meal is degraded in the rumen, and the rumen microbial population must be given a source of nitrogen so that they can reproduce, before they can digest the low-protein forage.
Mature beef cows can be fed hay every other day when provided an adequate amount. Alternate day feedings will save labor and reduce costs but observation time of the cows is reduced.