Forage Inventories

are Dropping

Winter still has a few weeks to go and hay reserves are getting low. Will you be able to provide your cattle with sustenance until the next harvest? For most people, 2009 crops were less than plentiful. It’s now time to review nutrition programs to avoid the inconveniences related to lack of forage. Obviously, the ideal would have been to plan accordingly before the end of fall and either perform a third or fourth cut or silage more corn. Now, let’s look at some other options.

One option is to buy more hay. In that case, don’t scrimp on quality. If you’re looking for hay based on price, you may be disappointed. Quality has a price and it’s important to find hay to complement what your already have on hand.

You have an ample supply of hay from your second or third cut? Then you can look for more fibrous hay. However, it could be to your advantage to choose high quality hay, especially if you don’t want to increase quantities of feed and protein supplements. I am aware that some producers never purchase hay; they’ll spread out their remaining hay and silage to last them until early June. Caution, there’s a catch! Is the actual quantity of dry fodder sufficient to ensure the intended level of production, in addition to meeting growth and reconditioning requirements? Limiting forage consumption may have a negative effect on production performance, but also on cattle reproduction, flesh condition and long-term production.

Other producers will wait and press the panic button in April or May. Proper planning will keep you from making misconceived, last minute decisions. If you must purchase hay, there is a better choice in winter than in spring. If you choose wrapped hay, better find a way to transport and use it before the warmer weather returns. Moving baled hay allows air to infiltrate the bales and as soon as temperatures start to rise, conservation is affected. So you can basically forget about this option early in April.

There are other options to consider and some more obvious ones are often forgotten. Check to see if you are in an overproduction situation. Then, make sure you don’t have any surplus ‘boarders’… Do you really need to keep your replacement animals? Have you thought about keeping fewer lactating heifers, eliminating the weakest of the lot and providing better nutrition to the others to meet your quota? Do you have non-gestating heifers with a high number of milking days? Are they really needed? Once you have dealt with this avenue, consider other feed options. If you have a good quantity of grain, this is the perfect opportunity to serve some to meet dry matter needs and provide a little more energy to rations and help recondition some heifers. An early release to pasture, a first cut at the end of May or better prairie fertilization are other last-minute options worth exploring. Furthermore, La Coop network has various products with high levels of fibre that could replace a portion of forage. In 1996 and 1997, the Totalac concept allowed producers to remedy the lack of forage. Today, this concept can be adapted to a variety of situations, based on your objectives.  

Whether it is to replace 5, 10, 25 or 50% of forage in your cow rations for a specific period of time, your expert-consultant from La Coop will guide you toward the strategy that is best for you and make sure your milk production is worth your effort. Happy spring!


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