As we turn our attention to fall, cattle producers realize winter can not be far away. This is the time cattle producers need to make decisions on how they will supplement their cattle during the next several months. We have recently discussed the need to determine the nutritional value of your forage before making any further decisions. The fact remains that most stored forages alone will not meet the nutritional requirements of brood cows during the cold days of winter. The cow’s requirement for both protein and energy will be at its highest level during the winter months. Also at this time, most producers’ hay crops will be lower in energy and protein than the grass the cattle consumed in the spring and early summer. The combination of higher requirements and lower nutritional values of your base feeding program leads to the need for additional supplementation.
While a brood cow and calf can survive on hay alone, it is important producers provide additional nutritional supplements to these cows so they will maintain proper body condition, produce a higher quantity of milk for calf growth, breed back in a timely fashion and perform at a level acceptable to the producer. With this in mind, and with higher input cost this year, it is important you select a supplement to best meet the needs of your cow herd at the lowest cost per head. It is very important not to select a supplement solely on the up-front cost of that product. I encourage you to consider all options before selecting a supplement based on its ton-cost.
A cow can consume around 3 percent of her body weight per day in feed on a dry matter basis. A cow nursing a calf on a cold winter day will have a requirement of 15 pounds of energy (TDN) and 3.5 pounds of protein per day. Also keep in mind that as the air temperature drops below 50o, and especially when cattle are wet, the requirement for additional amounts of energy to maintain body temperature is increased.
Most hay crops in Alabama will test out to be around 9 to 9.5 percent protein and 45-50 percent total digestible nutrients (TDN). Let’s assume the average cow herd in Alabama is provided an average of 25 pounds of hay per cow per day. Based on average quality Alabama forages (9.5 percent protein, 48 percent TDN), this calculates out to be 2.3 pounds of protein and 12 pounds of TDN provided from hay. This will leave a need of an additional 1.2 pounds of protein and 3 pounds of energy to come from supplementation to meet the herd’s nutritional requirements.
As a producer, you now have a decision to make concerning the most cost effective supplementation for your herd and your pocket book. Today, you are trying to decide between corn, soyhulls, corn gluten, AFC 13% with Bovatec and AFC T.P. Cattle Ration as your most cost effective winter supplementation. Let’s look at each product to consider our options.
The following table will provide the needed information to make the very best decision:
From the above example, a cow 1.2 pounds short of protein and 3 pounds short of energy would need to be provided the following amount of each supplement to meet the additional daily requirements of protein and TDN over what is provided from hay.
4. AFC 13%:
5. AFC T.P.:
As you can see from the above example, your most economical feed on a ton basis is not always your cheapest cost on a per head per day basis. As a producer, you must also consider the fact that although AFC 13% and AFC T.P. was higher than some on a cost per head per day basis, these two feeds are formulated in a way to provide not only protein and TDN but also minerals and vitamins to your cattle in the most useable form. While commodities may be lower on a ton basis, you do not have additional mineral and vitamins along with the inconsistency of the by-product. These are all options you must consider when making your feeding decisions.
Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.