As we enter into the fall, we do so this year in a different state of mind than over the past few years. Persistent rains throughout the summer and into the fall have left producers in a unique situation. I have visited with several producers who struggled to get the last cutting of hay cured and put up between the rains and shorter days reducing drying time. I have also talked with several store managers who have indicated the rains have delayed farmer’s abilities to over-seed or plant winter grazing for this winter and spring.
While these are negative conditions from the rainfall, the positive side is that hay should be plentiful and there appears to be an abundant amount of standing forage in most pastures I see throughout the state. This standing forage will present producers with an opportunity to carry their cows deeper into the fall before having to provide hay or other roughage supplements to meet the daily needs of their cattle.
To best utilize this standing forage does take some understanding of the characteristics of the product as well as knowledge of management practices. As the days get shorter, grass tends to mature and the rapid tender growth that is palatable as well as nutrient-rich comes to a rapid halt. This will leave you with a product lower in available nutrition and less desirable for the animal to consume. As this forage matures the lignin content in the forage itself will increase.
The lignin content in the cell wall of forages is what makes the grass "tuff," practically indigestible and cattle will tend to consume less of the product. This is one of the reasons why you can look across a pasture this time of the year and find areas heavily grazed while other areas of the field seem to be ignored by the cattle.
Also with an increase in cell wall percent and lignin comes an increase in neutral detergent fiber (NDF). NDF percent has a direct correlation with intake —- meaning the higher the NDF, the lower the amount the cow can intake and digest.
The bottom line is cattle consume less of the more mature, lower-nutrient grass leaving them in a nutrient-deficient situation. This will lead to cattle losing body weight and reduced milk production for those nursing calves. Producers who are utilizing standing forage must visually evaluate cattle for lost body condition. The last thing a producer needs is a cow going into the brunt of winter in a less than desirable body condition score.
The most common questions is whether there is a product or way to get cattle to consume the standing forage, to increase the nutrient availability of the forage and to add supplemental nutrition to the cow’s diet. The answer to all of these questions is yes. While a lot of producers like to provide a mixture of salt and cottonseed meal to cattle during this time of the year, I prefer to use other products over this "hot meal ration."
The name hot meal comes from the fact this ration will cause cattle to have a desire to consume more forage due to a burning in the gut from this ration. While cattle will eat more of the forage and this product will provide some additional protein, it will not help the cattle to break down the high lignin content of the forage. So while the cattle will eat the grass, they will not be gaining any additional nutrients from the increase in forage intake.
The product I believe will best answer the three questions above is Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s low-moisture block STIMU-LYX. While we have talked in the past about the use of STIMU-LYX as a way to supplement cattle during the winter, we have never discussed the benefits of using this product as a grazing management tool. The use of STIMU-LYX will offer the producer several benefits when utilizing standing forages like we have this fall.
The first advantage is as a grazing tool. Research has shown cattle will predominantly graze within close proximity of the block itself. This will allow you as a producer to manage your standing forage more efficiently. Place the tub in a certain area of your pasture and, as that area is grazed, then move the block to other underutilized areas of the pasture. This will allow you to more completely graze an area without leaving sections of your pasture under-grazed.
The second benefit the use of STIMU-LYX will offer is an increase in forage utilization. Research has shown that the use of highly-palatable, molasses-based, low-moisture blocks will increase forage utilization up to 30 percent. This increase in utilization will help you to get more from your forage, helping to maintain body condition and milking performance of your cow herd.
Also with the increase in forage utilization you will see an increase in forage breakdown. The consistent, constant intake of STIMU-LYX Blocks will increase the cow’s ability to break down high lignin forages making them more digestible to the animal. The saliva production manufactured by the constant licking of the block helps to regulate pH in the rumen. The pH stays at a more constant level for digesting forages, thus increasing forage breakdown and utilization.
Two specific products, HLF 30 and STIMU-LYX containing Tasco, are specifically designed for low-quality forage utilization like you will see in standing forages. Both products have proven to be very successful as a grazing management tool and as a way to increase the digestibility of high NDF forages. This will allow your cattle to extract more nutrients from the forage while also increasing forage intake.
Another benefit of STIMU-LYX over a hot meal ration is it will not only offer additional protein and energy, but will also provide the minerals and vitamins your cattle need on a daily basis. The product contains the levels to meet the daily requirements of all minerals and vitamins, excluding salt, when consumed at the rate of .75 pounds per head per day.
You will need to provide free-choice salt when feeding STIMU-LYX. Another benefit to the tub from a mineral and vitamin standpoint is over 90 percent of cattle will visit a low-moisture tub daily while only 50 percent of your herd will visit a dry mineral daily. This increase in mineral and vitamin intake will have a direct impact on the reproductive performance of your herd.
The final benefit to this product is that it will provide all these benefits at a low cost per head per day. Most producers can provide STIMU-LYX at a cost of around 32 cents per head per day. For this you get a complete mineral and vitamin supplement, protein, energy, grazing management and an increase in forage intake and digestibility. This might be the very best value you can find in the cattle business.
If you have a large quantity of standing forage, I would highly recommend you consider the use of STIMU-LYX Tubs as a way to manage this forage. Your local Quality Co-op will either have the product in stock or have the ability to get the product for you in a short period of time.
If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have additional questions concerning STIMU-LYX Tubs or the utilization of standing forage, please contact me at (256) 947-7886 or