Keep an eye on feed waste

This year some producers are finding they may be a little tight on their hay supply.
But even when feed is in good supply and relatively inexpensive, livestock producers wouldn’t toss it to the wind, trample it underfoot, let the nutrients weather away, or otherwise waste it . . . or would they?
Research has shown that up to 40 percent of feed is wasted in some feeding systems—and that cutting back on that waste is simply putting more dollars in your pocket.
The same studies that documented losses of one-half or more of feed also showed some feeding systems can limit losses to two or three percent.
Feed waste isn’t always apparent and is usually more than the producer thinks. It’s an area where many producers can tighten up their management.
Feed waste depends on several key factors: the type and quality of feed; how often it’s fed; the equipment used to feed; the weather; and the surface of the ground where the feed is distributed.
In general, cattle tend to waste less good-quality feed. They concentrate on eating, eat their fill, and leave the bunk, feed wagon, or feeding area. Cattle waste more poor-quality feed by rummaging around looking for the best tidbits.
To limit waste in poor or low-quality feed, feed the cattle each day. Hungry cattle will do a better job of cleaning up what’s offered.
If enough feed is provided to last the cattle for several days, use good barriers and racks to minimize the amount of sorting and rummaging the cattle can do.
Feeding on mud or snow allows cattle to trample feed and makes it difficult for them to clean up all that’s offered. Bunks, wagons, concrete, or solidly-frozen ground allow cattle to clean up feed that’s dumped or spilled there.
Assessing how much feed is wasted is difficult. First, have a good idea of how much feed your cattle require and compare that to what’s provided.
Watch for feed that’s trampled into the mud or snow around feeding areas.
A good goal for good-quality forage is a five percent loss, while up to 10 percent may be acceptable for poorer-quality forages.

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