Winter Feed Monitoring on a Grass-Fed Cattle Farm
In a Nutshell
Feeding cows during the winter is the greatest expense for most grass-based operations. Grazing cover crops and stockpiled pastures provides low-cost feed during times farmers would normally be feeding hay. For many years, Dave and Meg Schmidt have recorded grazing moves and the amount of hay they fed to the herd. From 2013 to 2017, they experimented with feeding cover crops, crop residue and stockpiled pastures to cut down on the amount of hay needed.
During the winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, cover crops and crop residue provided almost half of the winter feed needs for the herd. During the winter of 2015-2016, the most hay was fed, because the farmers were not able to plant cover crops the season prior. The least hay was fed in 2016-2017, due to a combination of grazing stockpiled pastures along with cover crops and crop residue. Calf average daily gains were greatest in 2016-2017. Diverse winter forage sources allow the Schmidts to feed less hay, increase the size of their herd and save money.