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Winter Feeding

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Like it or not, that time is upon us! One thing we should remember during this difficult time in the cattle production cycle - nutritional needs of cattle have not changed even though the economic picture has. We should not expect cattle to "get by" on less because we have less money!

A prudent management tool is, use a laboratory and good sampling techniques to determine the nutritional value of your forages. We can fine tune a supplemental feeding program and make sure we are using the proper amount of supplemental protein and/or make sure supplemental protein is needed. Notice that I did not include energy in this discussion. Generally, energy intake is controlled by the quality of the forage not by the level of supplementation. Energy supplements tend to displace (or substitute) energy in the diet that cattle voluntarily consume from forage in the absence of an energy supplement.

Many people are confused about what feed they should purchase. A simple answer can be obtained if protein is the primary supplemental need. Just compute the cost per pound of protein and buy the cheapest source. This is demonstrated in the example.

In this example, the 41% cottonseed cake is the cheapest buy. You should figure this for your particular situation. Many producers ask about big blocks, liquid feeds, etc. If the convenience of these products figure into the economics of your situation, then they may fit even if their cost's are higher. The main thing is, compare "apples and apples". Remember that non-protein nitrogen (NPN) products are usually utilized poorly with roughages.

Stocker operators should remember that feeding grain on grass is usually questionable. This is more true today with high grain costs and cheap cattle. Concentrate on proper stocking, good health, proper implanting and parasite control, as well as good management. Good management and timely decisions will help offset low prices. Good luck!