What will your beef cows be eating this winter?

Beef cow winter feeding after drought

With many lower-quality forage acres being converted to grain crops, total forage acres are declining. Hay yields result in much of the Midwest show significant reductions from first cutting. Combining that with early season dry conditions has jeopardized forage resources for beef cow winter feeding. Winter forge supplies may be an issue for cow-calf producers in many areas. Beef producers need to be thinking NOW about alternative feed resources to extend winter feed supplies. Below are some viable options to consider:

  1. Pull cows off pastures and drylot feed until moisture improves grazing conditions
  2. Plant summer annuals after wheat harvest like sorghum sudan, brassicas, ryegrass/clover, etc.
  3. Purchase additional hay early in the season before prices spike
  4. Fence and graze grain crop residues
  5. Round bale crop residue like corn stover
  6. Haul cows to feed
  7. Early wean calves to reduce cow feed requirements

These are only a few options to consider if you fall into the high risk area due to adverse growing conditions. Consult with your local Michigan State University Extension educator to assess your risk and find alternatives now to plan for adequate winter feed supplies. You may also want to look at the Michigan Hay Sellers List and the Wisconsin Hay and Straw Report to view some current hay pricing resources. If these hay prices aren’t high enough to get you thinking, just wait until the snow flies.

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