County Agent Update
With the start of a new year, there are many “New Year Resolutions” that some of us may create for ourselves and our families. But what about for our livestock? Carl Dahlen, NDSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist wrote an article a few years back which will always be an important issue. “The 5 W’s of Managing Feed Delivery” talks about the “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” of feeding situations. https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/cattledocs/ranch-hand-newsletter/the-5-w2019s-of-managing-feed-delivery. Looking at your feeding practices for cattle management may alter how they calve and help them stay alive during the cold winter months. First we will start with the “Who,” this is used to describe the animals being fed. During the colder months, many ranchers will have their cattle closer to home. Breaking down what is being fed, such as, cows, bulls, steers and heifers is important because they all require different nutrient levels and feed allotment. Refining the above classes in more detail is possible as well, potential cow groups include pregnant cows, open cows, young cows, thin cows, cows with excess condition, cows that are going to calve early and cows that are going to calve late. Splitting the cows, heifers, bulls and steers into more refined groups may not be realistic on your ranching operations, but knowing what you have in each pen can help you adjust the feed that is needed.
Next we will talk about the “what”, as in what feed resources and feedstuffs are available in your area and on your operation. Not all cattle producers test the quality of all their feeds, but it is an important factor in the “what” question. The quality of your feed may change over time depending on the storage method and the time that it has been stored. That should be taken into consideration as the storage time may alter the intake characteristics of that feed. Improper storing can cause feed that ends up molding because of moisture and excessively dry or old feed. Monitoring your feed stock is important, we always want to produce the best quality animal off of our operations, testing your hay or feedstuffs quality could help your operation meet their goals.
The “where” may be the most variable of the topics in this article. Dahlen states that this might be pretty straightforward; “the cattle area fed in that pasture with all the inverted tires in it”. However, daily environmental changes can alter the nutrient needs of your cattle. The thermoneutral zone (TNZ) is a range of temperatures that cattle do not use energy to stay warm or to keep cool. Temperatures below, as well as above, this range require energy expenditures and may need to compensate for temperatures way below the TNZ range. Cattle can deal with the cold weather of North Dakota on their own, but when you add in the wind, cold and moisture, it can be devastating on our herds. Blocking the wind, and/or moisture by using bedding or a covered area can help keep cattle dry.
Next I will mention the “why”, every group of cattle has a reason for being on an operation and the “why” component of a feed program defines that reason. One example of “why” we feed cattle is because they are hungry. Another example is if you have a group of cows that you want to gain weight within a set time period so they will be in a good body condition when it comes time to calve. Another reason may be that better quality feed was delivered to all cows on the operation because calving season is approaching and cows have greater nutrient needs.
The last of the five W’s is “when:” cattle thrive on consistency and defining a consistent time to deliver feed can be very beneficial. In addition, as we increase our expectations of cattle performance, we magnify the effects of consistency. Feedlot cattle on high-grain diets can benefit from or be harmed by consistency and lack thereof to a greater extent than stock cows with free access to hay. Humans may view feeding cattle in the morning or in the evening, as a breakfast and dinner situation, but cattle may experience this quite differently. About four to six hours after feeding, the greatest amount of heat is produced naturally as cattle digest their feed. In the coldest of the winter months, feeding cattle in the late afternoon may help keep them warm throughout the night as that is when they naturally produce more heat. In addition, feeding cattle at night can have advantages of moving a great proportion of cows to calve during the daylight hours.
This article has now talked about the 5 W’s. Now to talk about the how. This will help producers get the ration as printed on the feed bag to what is being fed to their cattle. Certainly, adding specific weights of each ingredient to a feed mixer in the same order and mixing it for the same amount of time will result in a consistent diet. Precision feeding is not limited to those with a total-mixed-ration mixers equipped with scale heads and load cells. By weighing a 1-gallon bucket of feed and determining the amount of space in a loader bucket, producers can determine how much weight a load would be.
The NDSU Extension staff, Desire’e, Mindy, Linda and myself would like to wish you all a wonderful and safe New Years!