Beef Cattle Winter Feeding
Do you always plan your Beef Cattle Winter Feeding strategy well in
advance of the winter feeding season?
You may be faced with feeding less feed or feed of a
poorer quality, yet your cattle still need adequate amounts of energy, protein, minerals, vitamins and
roughage. Get a handle on available feed supplies for winter feeding-quality as well as quantity. If there isn't
sufficient feed for the numbers of animals you usually over winter, then you have to decide whether to buy feed or
reduce the number of animals over wintered.
Prioritize herd reduction.
Top keeping priority should be the pregnant brood cows. If you can get them through the
winter with enough body condition after calving to rebreed on schedule, your breeding program won't suffer too
badly. That will help you win the war even if you feel you are currently losing the battle.
Pregnancy check the herd in the fall.
Cull the opens, cull the bad feet, udders, eyes and personalities. Cull the poor mothers.
Here's where good records will help you. You can't always eyeball a loser or remember a problem from last spring.
If there is extra feed after the main herd's needs are met, keep the best replacement heifers. Keep the bred
heifers and if there's enough feed keep heifer calves from your best cows. Use your records.
How well cattle tolerate the winter depends on their condition at winter's
onset. Thin cattle do not have fat reserves and need as much energy as during any normal winter. They are also more
likely to have low vitamin and mineral reserves. Watch them closely for deficiencies, particularly vitamin A
deficiency. Separate young and thin cows from the rest of the herd. Feed the young and thin cows extra forage or
Mature cows that finish the grazing season in better than average
condition can withstand some feed cutbacks. You can reduce the roughage they receive from the 10 to 20 pounds you
normally would feed daily to a minimum of four to five pounds daily, along with adequate grain. Greater reductions
of forage would interfere with normal rumen function. During the winter feeding these cows can lose up to 120
pounds. After calving give them extra feed so they nurse properly and return to breeding condition. Larger weight
losses may jeopardize their health or cause breeding problems.
If you have to buy feed, decide whether you need hay or can stretch
existing roughage with grain or protein supplement. Poor quality roughages if properly supplemented to meet the
animals' requirements can replace quality hay in maintaining the pregnant beef cow.
Thin cattle require more feed to keep warm. A thin cow can require 50 to
70 per cent more feed during a cold snap than a cow with some fat cover. That's why it pays to have cows come into
winter in good condition - they need less feed.
Don't waste feed.
Feeding on the ground can waste up to 50 percent of poor quality feed. Of all feeding
gates tested, home-built "tombstone" type feeders wasted the least feed. If you are feeding with an electric wire
keep it adjusted. Moving it a little twice daily is better than once daily and having the animals reach too much
Retain the best quality feed for young stock and nursing cows after
calving, because both milk production and growth demand extra nutrients. Allow enough feed for nursing cows to
provide twice their precalving energy and protein needs. Save your best roughage for replacement calves, bred
heifers and cows after calving. Both milk production and growth demand extra nutrients.
Ammonization of chaff and straw increases energy and crude protein
content. If allowed free access to treated straw or chaff, cows will eat more than they would untreated. Intake
increases from about 12 - 14 pounds of untreated to 18-22 pounds of treated. Grain required drops from 5-6 pounds
per day to about 2 pounds. Conversely, if grain is fed at 5-6 pounds per head, intake of ammoniated material can be
restricted and still maintain the animal in good condition.
Healthy cattle use feed more efficiently. Treat for warbles and lice in
the fall. Re-treat for lice in mid winter. Make sure vitamins A, D, and E are adequate either through the feed or
injections every 60 days. Balance rations with enough calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals, either mixed with the
feed or fed free choice. Know your feed quality and your animal's requirements. Have your feeds analyzed. Discuss
your situation with your Ag. Rep, Livestock Specialist or feed company nutritionist.
Feed all cattle extra in cold weather. Cattle need extra grain to help
maintain body temperature.