Utilizing Your Stored Forage
contributed article by Justin Fruechte, Forage & Cover Crop Specialist
Millborn Seeds, Brookings, S.D.
By this time of year, nearly every cattleman has rolled out a bale or opened up the silage pile. We often talk about alternative feed sources and their opportunity in rotations, but since they are considered alternatives and not mainstream, you may not be familiar with the perfect harvest, storage, and feeding methods. There’s no going back on what you have put up, so let’s look at your opportunities to develop a forage feeding strategy with what you have in storage.
If you dry baled long stem grasses such as millet, sudangrass, triticale, or oats, there are some opportunities to improve this feed. These plants can be high yielding and have decent feed quality, but their heavy stalks make them coarser to feed and ultimately less palatable. So, where is the right placement for these in your rations? Generally, the larger the livestock, the better they eat coarse products. Your cow herd is best suited to eat these forages, and they conveniently fit their nutritional needs in mid to late gestation. Ideally, these roughages should still be processed through a hay grinder or bale processor to minimize waste even further. If you are adding these into a calf ration, you will need to decrease stalk and particle size for full consumption.
Your wet feed piles likely include corn or sorghum silage, earlage, oatlage or pea/oatlage, or haylage from another cereal grain. All these wet forages will increase palatability and ultimately intake of a ration. Also, since they are harvested with the grain, they’ll boost energy values as they’re fed. Of course, the higher the grain content, the better the silage will work for increasing gain on your livestock. This is where a proper ration and nutrient analysis will ensure that you are feeding the correct amount for your class of livestock. Once your ration is developed, make sure you’re properly managing the forage pile to eliminate spoilage and minimize waste.
Your feed that was wrapped wet into baleage deserves the most attention for management. Many producers have found it convenient to utilize this technique for forages that won’t cure properly. Alfalfa, rye, millets, and cover crop forage blends are commonly harvested and stored this way. The moisture content ranges from 40 to 60 percent on these bales, which can drastically change their inclusion into a ration and their management of feeding. When feeding whole baleage bales ad libitum, make sure the bales can be consumed in less than three to four days. Heating and spoilage happens faster on bales with higher moisture, larger stem sizes, and warmer temperatures. Limiting those factors and reducing time uncovered can ensure a very high-quality, palatable product.
Though the winter-feeding months can seem monotonous, it’s a great opportunity to think about how the product you are feeding was managed from the time you planted it to the time it was harvested. Feeding strategies should change with your forage inventory, and it’s important to coordinate your forage plan with the agronomic and livestock opportunities on your farm.
Photos courtesy Millborn Seeds
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Millborn Seeds, Brookings, S.D.
The team of folks at Millborn Seeds have roots that run deep in farming, agriculture, and in the overall respect for the landscape. They opened their doors in 1987 and continue to walk alongside farmers, ranchers, and landowners across thousands of acres throughout the Midwest.