This year, cattle producers in this region are likely to need winter feed supplements more than ever.
Dr. Dave Lalman, a professor of animal science at Oklahoma State University, had some suggestions for keeping track of the real cost of supplemental feed. “It’s tricky because it’s a moving target,” Lalman told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor. He said the first step is to determine the nutritional value of your own feed resources. “If you’ve got feed hay, have it tested for protein, digestibility and energy,” Lalman said. “From there, go to either tabular values for an animal’s nutrient requirements, and those values are published in most Extension publications… or download a simple nutrition evaluation software program.” OSU’s program, “Cowculator,” takes the energy and protein value of the hay, matches it up against the requirements of an animal of a specific size, breed, etc, and tells you how much more you need from a supplement.
Lalman said the hay produced on OSU’s ranches was about one percentage unit lower than usual in protein, and two to three points lower in total digestible nutrients (TDN). However, he said, “A lot of people had to purchase low quality hay to fill their forage needs, so we’re reaching as far as we can into the low-quality end of the spectrum. At least in terms of protein, and in many cases in terms of energy, we’ll have to supplement those low quality forages.”
“There is hay available out there,” said Dona Goede, southwest region livestock specialist at the University of Missouri Extension Service office in Cedar County. “But there are some estimates that we are fairly low in our hay supply” – according to some reports, 25 percent short of what’s needed.
The prices of many feedstuffs are rising. The issue is basically one of supply and demand – hay supplies are short; people need more hay, and corn was also sharply reduced by the drought. “We have had a little bit of a shift in input costs,” Goede said, “and that’s not just with feed. That’s with everything; you talk about fertilizer, fuel, you name it – prices have gone up. Fortunately, cattle prices have gone up, too. But we’re still not making a whole lot of money off of our cows, so people need to pay attention to how much they’re spending on those supplements.”
If a producer’s hay is below their protein requirements, they can look toward high protein oilseed meals like cottonseed meal or soybean meal, or dried distillers grain; all of those products can range from 30-50+ percent crude protein on a dry matter basis. “On the other hand,” said Lalman, “if the energy and protein value of the hay is borderline, then they would need to explore something that’s more moderate in protein, around the 15-30 percent range.” Those would include wheat midlings, barley malt sprouts and corn gluten feed.
Goede said ranchers are getting fairly creative in their search for feedstuffs, and some are looking at substituting a supplement for the hay. “You can do that for the most part,” she said, “but you don’t want to get too much supplement. You sure still want to feed some hay.”


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