By Dale G. Watson
University Extension Center
The dry environmental conditions have assisted greatly with reducing the amount of daily feed needed for the beef herd.
However, keep in mind that spring isn't here. We have nearly 90 days of feeding before the grazing season. There are some pitfalls to watch for that will assist with improving the annual income from the beef enterprise.
I have had the opportunity to observe several individual herds over the past two weeks. A potential problem is the body condition of many herds. Even though we have experienced dryer than normal weather conditions, many herds had consumed all the available grass and, in some cases, nearly a portion of the top layer of the plant root system. In other words, the forages were grazed very short.
Many producers still contend that it is costly providing supplemental nutrition to the beef cow herd. This may be true, under some circumstances, but whenever forage analysis indicates protein levels at or below the 7% level, additional supplementation is needed. These circumstances not only set the stage for health problems, but also later tend to prolong the 2000 breeding season, which will extend the calving season for years to come.
We have the opportunity to utilize a wide range of feeds to supplement the nutrition of the beef cow. One of these supplements is adding whole soybeans to the diet. Reference to this work was completed at the Forage System Research Center, Linneus, under the direction of Chris Zumbrunnen, University Outreach and Extension Center, Milan. Whole soybeans straight from the bin-not cooked or processed in any way-are not toxic, regardless of what many individuals think. Soybeans are just like corn, if the animal overeats, it can die. Feeding 3.5 pounds per head per day 50 days prior to calving period provides additional nutrition in the form of fatty acids that appeared to move through the rumen nearly unchanged and into the remaining portions of the digestive system. The rumen of the cow does an excellent job of tying up fatty acids, which in turn reduces the availability of these energy sources.
Another source to consider is soybean hulls and or corn gluten feed. Either of these or a blend of both will assist greatly with adding additional nutrients prior to and throughout the calving season. These byproducts can be utilized efficiently by ruminant animals.
If you have available shelled corn, this is another source that will assist greatly. Two to three pounds of corn per head per day will assist with improving the body condition of many producing females. Some individuals believe that feeding over four pounds of corn, per head per day will extract all the nutritional benefit from forages. However, I contend it is better to maintain body condition utilizing the most economical method, compared to extending not only the calving season but the potential marketing coupons for years to come.