Cattle: Maximizing the Use of Home-Grown Forage

Home grown forages in the form of pasture, hay and silage can supply much of the nutrients required to product a beef animal, according to information from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Careful management of pastures can result in green forage being available nearly year-round in many cattle producing regions.  Allowing cows to harvest the forage themselves from pastures is the most economical approach to forage management, according to the division.  At the same time, “forage stores as hay or silage will be necessary in most operations to support cattle during periods when pasture production is inadequate to meet livestock nutritional needs.”

Your forage-management decisions are always influences by the need to find acceptable compromise between yields and forage quality, says the division.  Forage yield and plant persistence are usually maximized when plants are harvested in a young, leafy stage of growth when forage is high in protein and digestibility and low in fiber.

Your challenge is to manage forages and cattle in a way that optimizes both forage performance and animal performance, according to the division.

A prerequisite when managing home-grown forages is the need to consider nutritional needs of the cattle being raised.  Depending on your situation, you may decide to match your forages to the desired cattle, or to match the cattle to the existing forages.

For example, production goals for a cow-calf operation might include maintaining the cow as inexpensively as possible while supporting good reproductive performance and milk production that supports high calf-waning weights.  Lactating cows require more nutrients than pregnant, non-lactating cows.

In general, young cattle, such as stockers, claves, or replacement heifers require higher quality forage than mature cows.

SUPPLEMENTATION

Event high quality forages from the best-managed grown systems may be deficient in some nutrients, according to the division.  “Accurate laboratory forage testing is vial to knowing exactly which nutrients are deficient so that appropriate and cost-effective supplements can be chosen to meet the nutrient needs of the class of cattle being fed.” the division said.

Forage also often lacks in one or more minerals.  These can be supplied easily in solid blocks or loose mineral feeders.

Purina’s 4-Square feeding program for your beef cattle is the culmination of more than 80 years of Purina tradition.  Purina has performed the in-depth research to develop programs to meet animal needs in all life stages during all four seasons.

Purina ensures top-quality products to work with your grass or hay in a complete diet.  These programs are designed to help you extract the most value possible from your home-grown forage resources by optimizing  animal performance while enhancing forage utilization.

Purina also offers a comprehensive line of beef cattle minerals in its Wind and Rain products.  Wind and Rain cattle minerals’ large particle size and special formulation keeps the mineral from blowing out of the feeder. Since the moisture from rain or snow passes easily through the mineral, cattle continue to consume it even after it’s been wet.  This reduces waste.

Talk to us here at Walden Farm and Ranch Supply about these and other economical beef cattle nutrition programs might fit with your beef cattle business goals.

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