NDSU Extension - Williams County


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Reducing Winter Feed Costs - October 28, 2016

County Agent Update

Danielle Steinhoff


Reducing Winter Feed Costs


As many know that raise cattle, the prices are down this year. One way Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University Beef Specialist, says might help reduce cost is effective cropping systems. The following information is from BeefTalk: Effective Cropping Systems Reduce Winter Feed Costs article. Grazing of crop rotational systems that include cover crop and crop reside is a managerial change that can decrease beef production costs. This change is further enhanced when calving time is shifted to when cool-season pasture grass is available. That opens the doors to more extended grazing and less need for harvested forage. Making these changes on your operation may take several seasons, for many this is not an option that will happen in a few years. Keep in mind, cattle producers must choose a system that works for them. Creating change for change’s sake is counterproductive, but change because of increasing costs are causing a negative impact on the bottom line is certainly a discussion point. At the Dickinson Research Extension Center they embraced the delayed calving season, turning bulls out August 1. This allows cattle to graze longer because the third trimester doesn’t start until mid-February, which means an opportunity to cut winter feed costs. So often, cattle production is trapped in historic production systems. Truthfully, current production methods are not historic. While the production of calves through cows has been around for several thousand years, those systems were small, sustainable and had a local reach. Cattle would have had to walk to be herded across many geographical barriers to be otherwise. Until refrigeration, no sharing of meat occurred. Today, most cattle production changes have occurred during the careers of those who currently work in the beef business. This is significant because the expectation that beef producers can feed the world is a relatively new concept. When producers ponder how they can better manage their operations and make management changes, significant pushback pay occur because the payout to participants down the beef chain may decrease. Beef, in many respects, is a product of cropping systems that are enhanced by the addition of cattle to the crop rotation to maintain healthy soil, although that statement sometimes is forgotten within agriculture gatherings. The value of working together is key. In closing, the center did move from gain to hay production to a forage base with an option for the forage to be grazed or put up as hay. With minimal grain production, expanded forages, longer grazing and later calving, the center has changed. Grazing forage systems keeps cows and calves grazing well into the winter months, and beef production is good.


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