Contributed by Josh Elmore, Regional Extension Agent
An animal’s energy requirement increases in cold weather, and this often means supplemental energy is needed in the diet. Providing additional hay to cattle during cold weather is certainly a good practice. Research suggests that cattle will increase forage intake by as much as 30% under cold conditions. This increase in intake means that the animal is using most of this energy for one thing… increased maintenance requirements.
Cattle with a full rumen generate heat and energy that can help the animal achieve a more desirable body temperature. However, remember that forage quality is key every time! Depending on the quality of the forage and the magnitude of the cold, hay alone may or may not meet this increase in animal energy requirements. The best strategy for helping the cow meet her energy needs is to make sure that moderate to good quality hay (> 52% TDN) is available free-choice and provide a 20 to 30% increase in any energy supplement being fed during cold, wet weather to help overcome losses.
Even with increased forage consumption during cold weather, it is likely that feeding low quality forage (< 52% TDN) alone will not meet the higher energy requirements of the animal. As cattle consume more low quality forage, the risk for compaction of the digestive tract increases, and can lead to serious health issues. If low quality hay is the only source available, it is important to provide a fiber-based energy supplement to help address nutrient deficiencies (i.e. soyhulls, corn gluten feed, and whole cottonseed). Consider feeding cattle in the late afternoon or early evening. Increased heat production by the animal occurs 4 to 6 hours after forage and feed is consumed. Therefore, providing feed before temperatures reach their lowest point for the day can help combat some loss from the cold as well. Keep in mind the only way to know the quality is to TEST YOUR HAY!
Upcoming Animal Science and Forages Programs for Central Alabama
February 1- 7:00 am Beef Breakfast at the Montgomery County Extension Office
February 1- 11:30 am 2019 Cattle and Timber Outlook at the Sawmeal Restaurant in Brent, AL
March 2 – 9:00 am Starting From The Ground Up: Know Your Soil Central Alabama! Chilton Research and Extension Center in Clanton, AL
For more information and registration regarding any of these upcoming programs contact the Lowndes County Extension Office, 334.548.2315, or Josh Elmore, Regional Extension Agent Animal Science and Forages. 205-646-3610 or 334-850-7859