Meeting your herd’s nutritional needs with supplemental feeding may give them the nutritive edge going into the winter.
While cattlemen and cattlewomen adorn heavier layers to face the chilling months, their strategies for integrated winter management become a focus of their intention.
“Cornstalk residue and dormant range grazing work really well without supplementation until it doesn’t,” says Karla Wilke, University of Nebraska cow-calf and stocker management specialist. “…When we get delays or hitches in our system, we need to be cognizant of what’s really going on… we may have to make an adjustment.”
While forage feeding protocol is often the basis of winter feeding plans, supplemental feed and vitamin and mineral blends can be used to satisfy the herd’s nutritional needs.
“We have to recognize our needs are going to change for our animals,” says Maggie Justice, University of Arkansas assistant professor and beef cattle extension specialist. “We have to help them in those changes.”
Identifying herd body condition scores (BCS), nutritional needs, and forage quality and availability are the preliminary steps to create the foundation of winter feeding protocols. Producers must take into consideration their herd’s stages of production to further tailor toward their nutritional needs.
Lactation greatly contributes to a female’s total digestible nutrient and crude protein requirements, Wilke says. Especially in early lactation, female nutritional needs drastically increase. Producers should think about their females’ stages of production going into the winter months to prepare for appropriate feeding measures.
Although most producers acknowledge how lactation affects nutrition requirements, Wilke says, “Sometimes we don’t realize the magnitude of that change, and that’s what can get us in trouble.”
Effective, economical winter feeding is often a balancing act. Energy is typically the most limiting factor with forages, so supplemental feeding can bridge the nutritional gap, Justice says. Feeding the herd can be the largest cost area for producers, so intentionally comparing price and value of supplemental feedstuffs is imperative, she adds.
“Nutrition does not come in a bag,” Justice says.
There are a variety of feed blends producers can purchase to nurture their cattle, and she says producers must design their feeding plans to meet the unique nutritional needs of their herd.
Producers should ensure the energy and crude protein requirements of their herd are met, Wilke says. She urges breeders and feeders to satisfy these needs first, and then determine appropriate vitamin and mineral provisions, especially for females prior to breeding and during colostrum development.
“It’s not that they aren’t important, but if you are short on protein and energy, it doesn’t matter how high quality a vitamin and mineral program you have,” Wilke says.
Effective, balanced nutrition programs are of utmost importance, Justice and Wilke say. As winter feeding plans are instituted, producers set into motion the plan to sustain and maintain their animals through the cold season. Reflecting upon the herd’s needs and available forage and feed supply, the merit of proactive planning is invaluable.