It is being predicted we will have a very wet winter in the Ozarks.
It’s been great to have higher than normal pasture capacity, and an abundance of hay this year. The quality of the hay produced, however, may be called into question. Two things we must consider are protein levels and mold. In our attempts to cure hay appropriately thereby preventing mold growth, how many days did it lay in the field? How many times did you turn it or run a tedder over it, busting leaves? If your unhappy with how the hay got put-up prepare now to alter your feeding plan. What is to be done with this “trash” hay? Waste not, want not, right?
We are going to ask our female livestock to not only survive but also thrive this winter. Only if an animal can maintain a level above basic homeostasis can that animal reproduce successfully.
My definition of successful reproduction is parturition of a vibrant newborn that stands quickly, has enough energy to grab a teat and move out from under its mother before it gets pushed down in the mud. Quality forage is a must in winter, but add the predicted moisture to the mix and an even greater amount of nutrition will be required to overcome the “cold shock.”
How are you going to feed? It can require 20 percent more energy for an animal that is standing in fetlock deep mud to maintain its condition compared to those on solid ground. Deep mud and thick waste hay mats immediately surrounding a repetitive feeding zone are also death traps for young calves. It has been proven that feeding outside of hay rings or trailers leads to more hay wastage. Is has also been proven that this “wastage” leads to improved grass production and pasture health in the coming years. Incorporating bale grazing into wintertime feeding is a great option to reduce soil erosion, fertilizer needed and assisting your time management. Another great option is rolling your bales out. This provides a bedding surface for calves to get off the heat sapping wet ground reducing exposure, without condensing the herd over them.
Regardless, try to balance your hay quality so the livestock can choose their forage when it’s in question. Rumen capacity is approximately 2 percent of the body weight daily. If they are not consuming enough and they don’t have stockpiled grass to graze, ask yourself why. If the goal is to force feed bad hay so it doesn’t sit and rot, maximizing production is not your focus. I’ve seen too many times livestock aborting, even dying, with full rumens of trash hay. Often it is simply a negative energy balance where the animal uses more energy digesting the forage than it receives back from it. If the hay is questionable utilize it in other ways, like bedding or windbreaks.


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