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Manage forage inventory for more profit

By Wesley Moore 
Beef Technical Supervisor / Cargill Animal Nutrition 

Countless tools and technologies are available to help cattle producers stretch forage inventory, and they all work better when applied proactively. For example, it is much easier to reduce hay use by 10% for the entire winter-feeding period versus saving 40% for the last 60 days.  

When you calculate winter nutrient requirements and discover your current hay inventory may not be adequate, there are ways to navigate toward a sufficient nutrient inventory. You can improve utilization of current forage inventory, produce or purchase more feed, or reduce your cattle inventory.

Forage use efficiency 

Forage losses can be reduced by as much as 30% to 50% through storage and feeding enhancements.  

Research has shown that storing hay outside with soil contact and no cover can result in losses of 15% to 18%. An average-quality tarp costs about $3 per bale, and the use of tires to prevent soil contact is often free. Total forage losses due to storage programs can range from 15% to 45%. If hay is worth $100 per ton and costs $5 per ton to protect from the elements, reduction in forage waste would be valued at $20 per ton.  

Another practical option to reduce winter forage needs is the use of feed additives to improve feed efficiency. An ionophore can be a great tool to reduce forage use. When maintaining a cow, you can reduce nutrient needs from 5% to 10% by simply incorporating an ionophore into your feeding program.  

Fall fertilizing and stockpiling cool-season grasses is another way to extend the grazing season and reduce stored forage needs. 

Producers should evaluate their current program and look for opportunities to utilize forage more efficiently by capitalizing on available tools and technologies. 

Editor’s Note: To read the full article on maximizing forage management in cold weather, click here