Feed and forage go together
Nutrition in your herd is critical for your operation so it is important to know what your cattle need in their diet so you can have your herd looking and producing the best of their ability.
“The first thing a producer needs to understand is the quality of their forage,” Professor of Animal Science at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Beth Kegley said.
Understanding what producers have on their farm is one of the most important things to think about when considering about implementing a feed program. According to Kegley, the cost of this analysis is worth your money in return.
“Sampling your hay is a very large return of investment – to have those samples analyzed to see what nutrients are already present in that forage for your cattle,” she said.
“Producers should take forage inventories throughout the year,” Director of Livestock and Forestry Research Station at Batesville Shane Gadberry said.
Along with sampling the hay, it is beneficial to know what forages go into the hay.
Local county extension agents will work with producers to get samples and inventories of their forage. The sample is called Feed and Forage Analysis.
These samples can be taken after each cutting of hay in each pasture. It can be done at any point in the year such as right after the hay was baled or at the end of the cutting season. If a producer wants an overall average, they can send in one sample but it is not going to tell which pasture produces better hay, according to Kegley.
“If your hay is adequate in protein, you do not need to spend more money to buy feed supplements. If your hay is deficient in protein, you most definitely need to care about the protein in the supplemental feed you are going to buy.”
— Dr. Beth Kegley,
Professor of Animal Science
University of Arkansas
This will help to know which pasture produces nutrient-rich hay and which pastures do not.
“Knowing the protein and energy value allows you to decide what you need if anything, additionally for those cattle,” Kegley said. “If your hay is adequate in protein, you do not need to spend more money to buy feed supplements. If your hay is deficient in protein, you most definitely need to care about the protein in the supplemental feed you are going to buy.”
If producers find they do need to add a supplemental feed to their cattle, the most efficient way is slowly transitioning them onto the feed.
“Generally, you start with modest levels of supplementation and move them up as incrementally to higher levels,” Kegley said.
Producers can ask extension agents to help do the math to calculate how much supplemental feed you may need to extend your hay throughout the whole year, according to Kegley.
The Comparative Feed Value Calculator is a great resource to figure out protein and energy in the feed you are feeding.
Producers need to think about implementing feed programs as a strategy. Consider how much hay your going to have to see how much feed you need to buy.
It depends on what kind of pasture producers have or when they want to start grazing your cattle for the year or whether you want to plant some winter annuals for early Spring grazing.
“If you add so much grain the cow is going to eat less hay by her choice so you can limit feed hay and only feed so much a day,” Kegley said. “There are ways to limit feed herds a very high concentration of a high grain diet with a minimum amount of hay to extend that hay supply and you would know how much grain to offer.”
According to Kegley, each producer will have a different set of factors going into those decisions.
Important factors producers need to consider include thinking about the goals that they want from their herd, knowing what they already have in their forage and finding out the protein and energy values for what they are considering purchasing.
It is important for producers to know what they already have so they will not waste money buying feed they may or may not need.