Feeding beef cattle over the winter can be a challenging balance between ensuring the health and productivity of your animals, and keeping feed and yardage costs at a reasonable level. We recently sat down with Dr. Kim Ominski, a researcher at the University of Manitoba focused on productivity and environmental sustainability of forage-based beef cattle production systems. Continue reading →
Feed testing is a fundamental tool to assist cow-calf producers, backgrounding operations and feedlots develop sound feeding programs. By knowing the nutritional qualities of feeds, producers are better able to achieve desired production targets and save on supplemental feed costs. Feed testing is especially important to accurately determine the feed quality of forages, because visual appraisal of colour, plant species and leaf content, and knowledge of cutting time, can be misleading and should not be relied upon to determine feed quality. Continue reading →
This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with theAlberta Beef Producers, in collaboration with Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director.
Extended grazing systems have a number of benefits. By extending grazing into the winter months, costs related to traditional winter feeding and the labour it requires can be significantly reduced. For example, research indicates that swath grazing can reduce total daily feeding cost per cow by 41 to 48%. This is based on a 78% reduction in yardage costs and a 25% reduction in feed costs. Extended grazing can also have environmental benefits, such as residue and manure management.
However, extended grazing in our Canadian winters requires some added planning and management. Replacement heifers, young cows and mature animals all have different nutritional requirements due to their age and physiology. These differences are fairly easy to manage in a confined feeding system; however, managing the different classes of cattle during winter grazing requires more care. Continue reading →
As a nutritionist, feed testing is a fundamental tool that I rely on to assist beef producers with their feeding programs. This is true whether I am dealing with feedlots or cow-calf operations. Accurate knowledge of feed quality, particularly the operation’s forage base allows one to develop feeding strategies for specific production scenarios and minimize the over- or under-feeding of nutrients. By so doing, one is able to achieve desired production targets and save on supplemental feed costs.
While feed testing seems like a “no brainer”, it is surprising how many cattlemen skip this critical management tool. It seems many would rather rely on visual appraisal (i.e. colour, plant species, and leaf content) or knowledge of cutting time to judge quality. While these are all indicators of forage quality, they do not substitute for a feed test particularly when it comes to the energy and protein content of that forage. For example, the protein content of brome hay can range from as low as 5 to 6% up to 18% depending on stage of maturity at cutting. While visual appraisal may help separate the good from the poor quality hay, it is not going to help you decide how much protein supplement, if any, you need to background calves when feeding this hay. Only a feed test can accurately help you make this decision. Continue reading →