Plan your winter feeding program carefully

Conditions in the district generally were on the dry side this summer. As a result, there was poor growth and re-growth of hay/forage fields, resulting in greatly-reduced yields.
Some areas received adequate rainfall and got good hay crops, but it appears the hay yield in the district was down about 40 percent on average. The poor yields have a major impact on a farm preparing to feed livestock over the winter.
When planning a winter feeding program, the first step is to take an inventory of available feed and bedding so a decision can be made to either purchase more feed or cull the herd to match available feed resources.
The amount and quality of feed required will be affected by the body condition of the animals when they enter the winter season.
Cows that are in good condition only need to maintain their weight until calving, and can get by largely on poorer quality hay or good straw.
Cows in thin condition, however, must gain weight throughout the winter and therefore must be fed either good quality forage, or an average quality forage plus some grain.
Less-than-ideal pasture conditions this past summer mean there probably are going to be more cows going into the winter on the thin side. This year, a producer may be faced with the need for more or better quality forage when he doesn’t have enough—let alone any extra.
With the feed supply short and prices for cattle very low, you should look at getting rid of the freeloading cows—the ones that aren’t pregnant. They will consume precious feed over the winter and give you nothing in return (no calf) next spring.
Why waste valuable hay on an unproductive animal? If you haven’t done so, you should have your herd pregnancy checked this fall. The cost can result in big savings in feed supplies when those open cows are sold.
Another consideration is to graze stubble fields and re-growth on hay and pasture fields. The success of this will depend upon weather conditions but if you can do it, you will reduce your winter feeding period and avoid using some of your stored feed.
Dates to remember
•Nov. 20—Cattle breeders’ meeting with guest speaker Barry Potter, 7:30 p.m., Morley municipal office (Stratton); and
•Nov. 20—Beef and Alternative Livestock Producer Appreciation Night, 7:30 p.m., Stratton Community Centre.

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