Where there is challenge – there is opportunity
Creative nutrition in a challenging year
With little to no carry over in pasture, and a majority of producers only able to harvest less than half of their average hay crop yield this growing season, feeding and nutrition is undoubtedly top of mind as Alberta cow/calf producers bring home their herds this fall.
“This is the driest year that we have had in some time and it has set the stage for feed shortages as we approach fall and winter,” says DJ Woodward, ADM Animal Nutrition. “As a result, producers throughout a large part of Western Canada will need to try to stretch forages with supplementation or buy off-farm commodities to help keep cattle. It is definitely going to be a challenge for producers across Alberta. However, it will also be an opportunity to use different feeds and utilize feedstuffs that we haven’t had in the past and maybe help lead producers to feeding their cows better, or with less money – an approach that will hopefully carry over in to a year when forage is plentiful.”
“Cows will greatly benefit from protein and mineral supplementation at the same time, as long as there is some forage available.” ~ DJ Woodward, ADM Animal Nutrition.
To best manage nutrition this fall, Woodward recommends that producers continue to try to put weight on their cows to best support their body condition going into the winter months in preparation for the demands of the calving season ahead. In addition, he says that it will be very important to provide both protein and mineral supplementation, as pasture grass is extremely dry, offering low nutrient value. If you are short on forage, be prepared that cattle will typically over-consume mineral or tubs.
Nutrient analysis advised
Woodward strongly advises too, that producers perform a nutrient analysis on all available forages, in order to get an accurate report of their available feed, and then create feeding plans and strategies that save the best for last.
“There will definitely be a significant benefit in nutrient analysis in feed this year,” says Woodward. “Producers are going to have to feed strategically – saving the best for last and feeding higher nutrient quality closer to calving time as cow requirements go up in the third trimester and through to calving when she lactates as well.”
Pay attention to nutrient content
And last but not least, if you are forced to purchase off-farm commodities to make up for feed shortages this fall and winter, Woodward encourages producers to take the focus away from how much you are paying per tonne and pay much closer attention to how much you are paying per nutrient, when purchasing feed. He cautions that what may seem like a good deal when it comes to cost per tonne, may cost you if it falls short of nutrients. Alternatively, he says, producers should focus on the quality and nutrient value to maximize nutritional performance. And for those that have the ability to blend different feedstuffs (i.e.) straw, Distillers Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) and alfalfa hay for example, they are going to have an advantage when it comes to cost and flexibility. To do this safely you must have a nutrient analysis completed.
“Many producers are going to end up using feedstuffs this winter that they never thought of, or thought they would never try using. It is an opportunity for those willing to be creative when it comes to nutrition. What will we learn from this year nutritionally? With expectations of record high feed costs this fall and winter, talk to a nutritionist about optimizing strategies that will save you money without risking the nutrition of your cow herd,” says Woodward.
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