For most of the Southeast, this summer was a complete 180 degrees from previous years.
The rainfall total for January to July for the Southeast was the second wettest on record. That is great if you are trying to grow forage, but it’s bad if you are trying to cut, rake and bale hay.
For many, this has resulted in grass harvested at much higher maturity than anticipated or hay that was cut, but rained on before it could be raked and baled. This can have major implications on utilizing the hay for winter-feeding programs.
Given the dilemma, here are a few strategies to consider:
• Forage testing: Hands down, this the first and foremost step. The cost of the test will pale in comparison to the money saved either in feed cost if the forage is better than expected, or the cost of lower conception rates if the forage is not as good as expected.
• Liquid or dry protein supplements: There are three major advantages to liquid, block, or tub-based protein supplements; those are convenience, reduced labor, and increased forage intake. These can be an excellent source of protein when a small amount is needed to bridge the gap with marginal hays, especially with dry cows. However, like with any other feed, they need to be analyzed to ensure they are meeting the nutritional needs of the animals in a cost effective manner. Another positive for many of these is the addition of essential vitamins and macro- and trace-minerals.
• By-product feeding: Many producers do not have the facilities or machinery to handle large amounts of commodity or by-product feeds. However, with a little ingenuity, such as ton-tote bags, 50-gallon drums, etc., there can be a real opportunity to utilize these. The strategy then becomes pricing and getting these early enough to insure an economical price. Oftentimes, something as simple as a 50:50 mix of corn gluten feed and soybean hulls or straight whole cottonseed can be a versatile ration that can be fed at variable rates to match the hay and cattle stage of production.
For more helpful information on Southeast beef production, check out the SE Cattle Advisor.
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