The beef industry has seen success the last few years like no other time in history. Record-low cattle inventory numbers and high demand for beef, both foreign and domestic, have been the recipe for record prices and profits. Even though cattle size has increased, the amount of beef marketed still can’t satisfy the market’s appetite.
Cattle genetics have improved significantly over the last few years. Growth rate, efficiency and mature size are all areas that have seen significant improvement over the last decade. With increasing animal performance, nutrient inputs must also increase. Just like any industrial factory, if you want more output you must increase your input. In the southeastern United States, the most common method to provide winter feed to a beef cow is dry hay. Most hay harvested in the Southeast isn’t of high enough quality to supply the required nutrients for the modern beef cow, especially if she is nursing a calf. The big increases that we have seen in mature cow size have dramatically increased the amount of nutrients required for her to just maintain body weight.
As stated earlier, the forages we have available in the Southeast simply don’t have the required nutrients to maintain larger modern cattle. For the most part, cattlemen do a poor job of harvesting hay for winter nutrition. Much of this is due to factors beyond the cattleman’s control. Weather, proper timing of fertilizer application, weed control and forage maturity at the time of harvest are all factors that dramatically affect the quality of hay available for winter feed. Additionally, forage varieties that thrive in the Southeast are, by nature, of poorer quality than those grown in the North and West.
So, we have big cattle that perform well and only average-to-poor forage to supply their nutritional needs. This seems to be a problem that isn’t fixable. The most practical solution to this problem is to supplement the cattle with a nutrient-dense supplement. This practice has been used by successful cattlemen for many years. In the past, whole cottonseed has been a favorite along with other readily available feeds such as whole corn, corn gluten pellets and soybean hull pellets, but all of those have certain limitations.
Realizing that common supplements of the past just don’t totally fit the bill, the staff of the Feed Department at Alabama Farmers Cooperative set out to create a beef cow supplement to help bridge the gap between the common hay fed to cattle and the nutrients required for them to reach their genetic potential. The feed must be one that can be fed to cattle being fed a diverse array of forages in different regions of the Southeast with varying climates and stresses. The feed must also contain ingredients that don’t change the rumen bacteria to those more suited for grain digestion rather than forage digestion. A nice blend of protein and energy to help those cattle lactate, maintain body weight and perform reproductively fits perfectly. A nice complement of minerals to further supplement the cattle’s free-choice mineral program is just icing on the cake.
By blending forage-based byproducts along with minimal amounts of starchy grains, we achieved a moderate protein, moderate-to-high energy, cow supplement that can move your cow herd up a notch in the performance category. This supplement, if used as recommended, should help cattle maintain body weight, increase weaning weights, and cows cycle and rebreed. The supplement is formulated to feed at the base rate of 5 lbs. per head per day. I say base rate because other factors such as cow body condition score when starting the supplementation, breed and size of the calf all play a role in the nutrients required by your cattle. This is where you must be the judge. You must evaluate your cattle and decide if the rate you are feeding is the right rate for you to achieve your goals. If the cattle are too fat, the rate may need to be adjusted down to around 3 lbs.; but, if they are thin, the rate may need to be adjusted up to 10 lbs. for a short period of time. Proper cattle management requires you as a cattleman to make judgment calls that ultimately help you succeed.
I challenge each of you as a cattleman to have a forage analysis completed on your hay. In my experience, most hay will fall short of the nutrient composition expected. So, in times of high cattle prices and moderately priced feed stuffs, maximize your production by providing high levels of nutrients for maximum profits.
As I have stated in an earlier article, develop goals and plan to reach those goals. Reach the goals you have with your brood cows by supplying plenty of good quality hay, free-choice mineral, a poured or cooked molasses tub, and top it all off with our 13% Beef Cow Supplement to put more money in your pocket and make everyone happier at your operation. In times like these, feed the factory for maximum output and maximum profit.