• • • Harvest woes increase supply of alternative feeds
There could be numerous options for alternate winter feeds this year as some crops originally intended for grain are being harvested as feed. With the increased availability and falling prices of alternative winter feeds in some areas, there could be a good opportunity to reduce wintering costs by using alternative feed sources this year.
When considering alternative feed sources, feed testing is important to test for nutritive value to ensure a balanced ration that meets the nutritional needs of the herd. Testing can also identify quality or toxin issues such as nitrates, sulphur, or mycotoxins. Any new feed should be introduced gradually to allow cattle to adjust to the different texture and taste. Feed rations should be adjusted according to the cows’ body condition and weather conditions.
While the above analysis focuses on alternative winter feeds, extended grazing, such as stockpiled perennial forages, use of annual forages, crop residues, and bales left in the field, have considerable economic and environmental benefits over traditional winter feeding systems. For example, research indicates that swath grazing can reduce total daily feeding cost per cow by 41 to 48 per cent compared to drylot feeding.