Winter pasture can be used as a protein supplement for wintering beef cows when proper grazing management is used. A cow will consume up to ten times her protein requirement when allowed to graze full time.
When the cost of a full time grazing program is considered, it can be quickly seen that cost is prohibitive when compared to purchased protein supplement. If a limit grazing program is properly used, the use of winter pasture can be comparable or in some cases, it may be the most economical means of furnishing protein supplement. The following table compares winter pasture to cottonseed meal under a given set of assumptions.
A grazing time of one day in five with dry cows and one day in three for lactating cows can be used as a base to work from. Cow size, milk production, pasture quantity and quality, and weather will always come into play with any supplement program.
The cows can utilize standing dry grass in the pastures or hay while off winter pasture, but additional forage is a must. It would be well to consider that even when the cost of purchased supplemental protein is more expensive than the winter pasture, the winter pasture is still a higher risk program due to weather condition influence.