Carrington Research Extension Center


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How Much Straw Do We Need for the Cow Herd for Bedding?


Last year’s blizzards and cold, snowy winter are a fading memory, but now is the time to stock up adequate bedding in case of another adverse winter.

With this year’s drought, finding hay can be a challenge.  Consequently, finding bedding for the cow herd or calf crop isn’t high on the priority list, and even straw may be in short supply due to short stands or the farmer’s desire to leave it on the field.  Corn stover is a suitable replacement for straw as bedding. 

Straw can be used as backup forage supply.  While straw’s feed value is considerably less than good quality hay or silages, when properly supplemented, straw provides some energy value to the ration.

Anderson and coworkers used straw at modest or generous bedding levels as compared to no bedding for feedlot cattle.  In that project, steers increased average daily gain by 0.5 pounds per head when bedding was provided.  The modest bedding rate was 1-1.5 pound of straw per day during the entire feeding period while generous was 2-3 pounds per head daily.  These amounts included days when no additional bedding was needed due to good pen conditions.

A good bedding pack during a snowy winter may require 5-7 pounds of bedding per head daily.  Spring thaw may require additional bedding. 

At 150 days of a winter feeding period, that’s roughly one round bale of straw or stover per cow for bedding.  Having two bales of bedding per cow can provide a buffer for extra bedding or an extra forage supply.


Effects of bedding during the winter on performance of growing heifers and finishing steers and impact of straw on nutrients in manure: Vern Anderson, Dale Burr, Tim Schroeder, Larry Swenson and Ezra Aberle. - Pages 13-14


For information about Farmer and Rancher SARE grants go to  Application deadline is 12/07/2017.


Karl Hoppe, PhD
Area Extension Livestock Specialist / ND SARE Co-Coordinator

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