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nutrition

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What is everyones most popular hay variety to winter their cows on. I am reading that some guys are feeding alfalfa isn't that expensive and more quality than the cow needs. I know in Dairy cows it makes sense because of milk production, but I always assumed that a herd of beef cattle could get by on a lesser quality of hay. Please school mje :) :)
 

Running Arrow Bill

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Winter your cattle on the type and quality of hay that is common in your area. Beef cattle eat differently than dairy cattle. Alfalfa won't hurt beef cattle as long as you have some other grass/hay to mix it with (and a lot cheaper too).

On the other hand, I stay away from the Sorghrum species (johnsongrass, and related) unless you know what you are doing. Would also stay away from the Fescues. Bermudagrass, prairie grasses, etc., are all excellent.
 

TheBullLady

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We generally buy coastal hay.. but if you can find a good quality sudan, that makes excellent hay as well. It depends on what's available in your area.

When we lived in Illinois, alfalfa was also an option. We could generally find either first cutting alfalfa or an alfalfa / timothy mix that was great for cattle. If you're in an area where it's produced, I would check on the price. When crappy round bales were $70 a piece hereduring the drought, we took the semi to Farmington NM and bought alfalfa for $110 a ton.
 

Dave

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Alfalfa make great cow hay. The main trouble is the price. The best quality alfalfa generally goes to the dairies but the lower end stuff, often called feeder hay, is generally available at an affordable price. Even if it is a little too mature or got a light rain it generally has better nutritional value than most grass hay.

Dave
 

dun

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Dave":30zvl98t said:
Alfalfa make great cow hay. The main trouble is the price. The best quality alfalfa generally goes to the dairies but the lower end stuff, often called feeder hay, is generally available at an affordable price. Even if it is a little too mature or got a light rain it generally has better nutritional value than most grass hay.

Dave

For most beef cows except maybe lactating during the winter, alfalfa just isn't necesarry. In years past we wintered some cows on it and fed it as the main feed source in the drylot. Way more protein then a beef cows can use.

dun
 

Dave

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Certainly there is more protein in most alfalfa than a cow needs. But is that a bad thing? The same thing could be said for some grass hay. I have ran tests on grass haylage that came back as good as alfalfa. Stage of maturity and handling after cutting have as much to do with nutrient content as the species of the forage. If it is affordable I prefer to feed better rather than poorer. The extra nutreint not utilized by the cow ends hitting the ground out in my pasuture where it helps to grow more grass next year. The real answer is how much does it cost and what does it test and then compare to to cost and test for any other source of feed.

Dave
 
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Anonymous

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A large portion of the Timothy (some orchard grass also) grass hay grown in Washington and Idaho is going into the export market which means, like Dave said, the grass and feeder alfalfa hays are often about the same price here.
Our weaned heifers and yearlings get alfalfa. The old girls get round bales of grass until the temperature drops around Christmas time. Then they get a few (midsized bale) flakes/day of the alfalfa also. Others we know feed a combination of bluegrass straw (from the seed industry) and alfalfa.
 

dun

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goatlady":m1dcrz4p said:
A large portion of the Timothy (some orchard grass also) grass hay grown in Washington and Idaho is going into the export market which means, like Dave said, the grass and feeder alfalfa hays are often about the same price here.
Our weaned heifers and yearlings get alfalfa. The old girls get round bales of grass until the temperature drops around Christmas time. Then they get a few (midsized bale) flakes/day of the alfalfa also. Others we know feed a combination of bluegrass straw (from the seed industry) and alfalfa.

In this area 10-12% grass hay can be shipped in from KS for about 2/3 the cost of alfalfa. We bought a mix that was supposed to be 85% OG and 15% alfalfa. Turned out to be the other way around. The cows were under the impression that it was candy and spent all their time with their heads in the feeder. Our hay consumption that year was over twice what it normally is. They didn't calve in any better condition then they had in the past or for that matter as good as they did this year. When we fed alfalfa in the past, my partner raised thousands of acres of the stuff and provided all the feed for his share of the business.
Unless temps are dropping into the 20s I really feel that the cows do better one a higher fiber diet then a higher protein one. Their rumen is a giant furnace that generates plenty of heat to keep them warm enough. For exceptionally cold weather we feed a small amount of grain a day or so before the cold and through it and a day or two after. But that's for the energy, not the protein.
Last winter on stockpiled fescue, the girls all got fat. The only hay we fed was during deepish snow and calving season when we brought them up into a small lot for a week before calving and a couple of days after. The first bunch through cleaned up about everything there was to eat so we fed hay. Our hay consumption for the winter was around 1/2 bale (4X5 round) per head. We did feed about 200 lbs of grain during those cold spells.
The point of all this long winded deal is, each area has varying feed considerations and controlling factors. Fall calving will increase both hay quality considerations and grain requirements.

dun
 

Cattle Rack Rancher

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My cows seem to eat alfalfa just because they like the taste. I prefer timothy grass with a small amount of alfalfa and clover. They only eat when they are hungry if you are using a little less tasty feed. Saves quite a bit on feed costs.
 

hillbilly

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Firefighter,

I think the best hay for your cows is whats common in your area, preferably the hay you produce on your farm or the hay produced right down the road from you.
Its always the cheapest, my fertilizer dealer will have it tested for me for free.
When you make your own hay you know what you've got. You [hopfully] won't be unrolling weed seeds all over your feild.
In our area its fescue, our cows do great on it. Early cut hay can test 12%,
more than enough for our cattle,
very little suplimentation, like Dun more for energy than nutrition.

Hillbilly
 
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Anonymous

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Thanks for the responses. We grow an orchard grass fescue mix on the farm. We also seed about 10 acres of timothy. If the timothy is made right the horse people will usually pay top dollar for it. Other beef producers in my area are wrapping some roundbales of alfalfa. I was always under the impression that alfalfa exceeded the nutrition levels for beef cows plus it is a pain in the a88 to make in our climate. Thanks again for the continuing advice .firefighter
 

heiferhoney

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Heh we are in the same state. Making hay has been terrible this year, watch closely what you are buying and definitely have it tested if you buy a lot. Too much rain. Some of it's looking okay but I tested some nice looking timothy that had dead rye in it and it barely made 7 protein. Great for cows but the heifers will need more.

I make orchard grass/clover, buy timothy but it looks like this year I will have to buy some alfalfa for the heifers. Looks like I will be able to stockpile fescue for most of the winter since we've had such a wet July.
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heiferhoney

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Running Arrow Bill":2kv7qwst said:
On the other hand, I stay away from the Sorghrum species (johnsongrass, and related) unless you know what you are doing. Would also stay away from the Fescues. Bermudagrass, prairie grasses, etc., are all excellent.

Hi Bill--in Maryland Johnsongrass is a noxious weed and must be controlled, we can't grow it. :D
 

Michelle Pankonien

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Well, I think of it this way,

test the hay, smell the hay, if it bugs your beak the cows won't like it either, look into protein quality, over all cost of each bale with shipping to the ranch, if prices are up, look into a poorer quality available forrage and supplament with liquid protein, hay can be a great filler with good supplament

Cows are designed to eat forrage, and the microbes in their gut digest the fiber and make protein usable by the beef animal, they also utilize protein in the forrage too, so if it is not there, you need to providse it in a supplament

Cattle also require mineral supplament, loose is better, minerals are leached from hay and dry forage when it is rained on, thus quality is reduced, and some ground just is difficient in mineral content, and forrage produced on this ground will also be defficient in those minerals,

A 12-12 mineral really does not provide ballanced nutrition for a bovine, a complete loose mineral, designed to meet the needs of cattle in your area is best, local feed stores usually have a nutritionist look into regional mineral availability and have a loose miner ballanced for that area mixed and available. At least that is the way we do it here in the Brazos Valley and in Madison County, and most other regions in Texas
 

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