Cold temperatures significantly raise energy requirements. Undeveloped winter hair coats, wet hides, and wind all combine to magnify this increase in energy requirements. The combination of calving cows and colder environmental conditions can easily result in producers underfeeding energy and cows losing weight.
So what can you do? Producers can do several things to manage the cold stress and feeding programs:
1) VitaFerm® products contain AMAFERM® which improves digestibility of their feed to help ensure that your cows are extracting all of the energy possible. Our experience and research with AMAFERM has shown benefits similar to feeding at least 1 lb. of grain.
2) Consider moving cows to locations with protection from the wind and wet weather. The energy requirement of beef cattle increases about 3% for each degree that the wind chill is below 59 degrees F. This increases even further in wet conditions and prior to fully developing a winter hair coat.
3) Feed higher quality hay (with more energy) and expect cows to increase intake. Without a forage analysis you are taking a best guess as to what the energy level of your hay is. This can lead to inadequate nutrition. Contact your VitaFerm dealer or Area Sales Manager to receive free forage testing to ensure your rations are properly balanced.
4) Match animal nutrition requirements to the quality of your forage. Heifers and thin cows require a more energy dense diet, compared to older or fleshy cows. Sorting animals into groups based on body condition allows you to feed the available forage more effectively. Start by targeting your higher quality, more immature forages toward heifers and thin cows. These earlier harvested forages will be the most energy dense as energy declines considerably with maturity. The older and higher body condition cows can then be fed slightly more mature forage. This allows you to maximize the use of your forage supply while better targeting the nutritional needs of your entire herd.
5) A good guideline is to feed 3-6 lbs. of energy supplements like soyhulls, corn gluten feed, or corn to avoid weight loss during these stressful periods.
The bottom line is early cold stress can result in a snowball effect if left unchecked. Keeping cows in good condition in fall and early winter ultimately helps insulate cows and minimize the amount of feed required later in the winter season. Now is the time to take an honest evaluation of body condition and match your feeding program to the needs of your cows. For assistance with products selection, feed testing and ration formulation contact, Kevin Glaubius, Director of Nutrition or click here to find a dealer near you!