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Feeding hay in rings (pics)
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Posted 11/27/2012 13:18 (#2719679 - in reply to #2718767)
Subject: Re: Feeding hay in rings (pics) - hay consumption, cow condition

Driftless SW Wisconsin

I read somewhere that dry beef cows will eat approximately 3% of their body weight.

I weigh my cattle also have spot checked the weight of my 5x6 hay bales which are purchased from just one supplier and seem fairly consistent weight.

When there is snow on the ground and nothing to graze I find the actual consumption is usually somewhere between 2.5 and 3% of total weight in the pasture per day.  If the hay is stemmy and there is perhaps some spoilage on the bottom of the bale etc I find 3% is a safe number to put out if I will be away for a few days.

If I am using good, wrapped bales of hay without a lot of stems then 2.5% is more accurate.

Right now with no snow, just a little grazing around the edge of the woods, very good hay with no spoilage and if I am around to push them to "clean their plate" I am finding hay consumption is down around 2.0% of total weight of cows+bred heifers in the pasture per day.

In round numbers, if I have 20,000 lb of cows in this bred pasture group, a 1% difference in hay consumption saves me 200 lb/day or a large bale about every 8 days. Over 5 months of hay feeding to go to starting grazing again next May 1 that translates into about 18 or 19 big bales saved and means I can get through the winter without buying more hay.

Regarding the second part of your question,

"Is it easy to add condition just feeding hay over the whole winter or do you need to get them into condition before the snow starts?"

In the north it is definitely NOT easy to add condition over the whole winter on hay alone, at least outwintering in the woods with essentially no supplement other than a Mineralyx barrel as mine do. I think it is very important to wean early enough (10/24 this year) and provide good quality hay so they have time to get into good condition before the real cold weather and snow starts. 

A cow bred to calve about April 1 is also entering 3rd trimester about January 1 so she is growing a calf internally as well as meeting her own needs. They need to be in condition, before this time, in my limited experience. My target is a BCS 6 and no ribs visible at the end of December. That is not generally easy to do.

There is also a large variation in cows. Easy keepers will put on condition on hay alone. Hard keepers seems to almost require a supplement of some sort to put on condition. I try to retain heifers from the easy keepers and gradually cull the harder keepers. But cow size is also interrelated. I don't want a herd of 1600 lb easy keepers - they will eat a lot.  I'm looking for a middle of the road 12-1300 lb cow that is also an easy keeper. The slicker one on the right in the first picture above is an example. No simple answers in this area. 


Edited by Jim 11/27/2012 13:30
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