Beef Cattle Winter Feed and your Winter Feed Supply is always a major consideration to anyone in the beef cattle business.
Perennial forages require plentiful moisture by early May to yield well later in the year. You should avoid the temptation of being optimistic and waiting for the first hay growth to develop into a good crop after a dry spring because it won’t.
Perennial forages should be cut by the early blossom stages for legumes or early heading stages for grass, whether there is sufficient yield for hay or not. That way, if timely rains appear in late June or early July a good second cutting can be obtained. If not cut, the first growth will simply mature, with little second growth.
Sloughs and roadsides can be cut for hay.
Weedy crop areas such as wild oat patches are also good feed and reduce weed infestation next year.
Oats planted after a late rain can still be cut for green feed.
The same applies to cereals used for grazing and allowed to re-grow. Sometimes these fields can provide winter feed if there are later rains.
Watch for nitrates if there’s an early frost.
Oats should be cut in the milk stage for best quality. Feed value drops off rapidly as it matures.
Barley and wheat can be cut for green feed when slightly more mature.
Livestock producers should also consider trying to save as much crop residue as needed during grain harvest to replace any hay production which may have been grazed as emergency pasture.
Chaff can be collected as feed with the advantage of not removing all the plant material from an area, leaving the straw to help hold the soil from erosion.
Chaff collection systems are becoming more effective and readily available.
Chaff can make up a sizeable portion of the ration for wintering beef cattle or sheep.
Chaff fits well into several self feeding systems such as electric wire. Yield of chaff is not consistent.
Wheat crops have more chaff than barley or oats.
Short crops and dry conditions produce more chaff as shorter material falls through the straw walkers.
Type of combine and combine settings make a difference too.
Chaff from some of the very rough awned bearded wheats such as Pitic-66 may cause palatability problems, especially with younger animals.
Chaff from Wascana durum has been fed to young stock with no reported problems.
The better condition cattle are in at the beginning of winter, the better they will tolerate the winter.