Is Hay quality really that important in Beef cattle?

I have heard for years people talk about the difference between horse hay and cow hay. Some people think that a mixed grass hay is not suitable for horses and that feeding something high quality like brome and alfalfa to cows is just crazy. Personally, I am not experienced in feeding hay to horses. I do know a lot about what to feed cows.

This year, like many other years, I am feeding a fescue grass mix. Our cattle seem to handle it well and it’s been several years since any have lost their switch or hooves. I know some people have issues with their cows on fescue but in this part of Missouri there seems to be fewer issues annually.

Cow that lost her switch on her tail

Fescue is nice for us because it allows us to abuse our pastures, running far more animals than we should and it still grows back. Most other grasses won’t handle that kind of stress. One draw back is we have to fertilize it each year. If we don’t, the grass that grows back will be thin and not grow as tall. I have considered switching to other grasses, due to their higher protein content. However, it is hard to justify that when fescue stands up to all the abuse and produces a good crop each year. 

In years past we have fed other grasses and have never noticed a difference in growth of the cows or calves. The protein in fescue is lower then some of the finer grasses but our personal experience has not shown a difference in growth. One thing, however, is that in years with a higher mold count the miscarriage rate increased in the cows. There is some mold in the hay every year, but it varies. In years where mold content was lower, there was no difference in our cows and calves. 

This year, they hay is not the best. This has been due to the rainy fall and winter. After having such a dry spring and summer, it was hard for a lot of farmers to get enough hay to make it through the winter. We didn’t have that problem, but the high precipitation has increased the amount of hay that is wasted. The rainy weather turns the outside of the hay bale into waste. Even with the extra waste, it seems to be providing good nutrition for the cows, and all the calves are growing well.

Here is a link to a nice article that talks about how to manage when you feed fescue to cows. https://www.agweb.com/article/minimizing_the_risks_of_fescue_toxicosis_in_cattle_naa_university_news_release/

 

 

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The start of a Journey

I have decided to blog and share the journey of running my own beef farm. I have around 10 years experience, but this is the first year of doing it on my own. In this blog I will describe my achievements and struggles starting from last year and moving forward. I plan to post daily but in the busy season it may be every other day. I hope everyone enjoys this as much as I will.

Rain Rain Go Away

The past few weeks it has rained almost every other day. Normally rain in the winter is a great thing, as it helps ensure we have a good growing season. This year though we have gotten too much. The fields at one point had over a foot of water over nearly the whole place.

I’m not one to normally complain about rain, but mix rain and cold temps and you breed a disaster for young calves. I have been battling pneumonia in a small group of calves. So far this year I have lost two to pneumonia. They can go down so fast, in a mater of hours. There are some things you can do to prevent this from happening with your calves and cows. They make a vaccine that works wonder if they get it in time. Sometimes you have to resort to the strong antibiotics. With the two calves that I lost, I gave them the antibiotics. For one reason or another they were just not strong enough to improve. In some cases, unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to save your calf.

Another thing to keep in mind while trying to save calves is hydration. Keeping the calves hydrated and full of electrolytes is one of the most important things you can do. This allows their body to fight the germ and have a chance to recouperate. Normally one of the first signs that a calf is sick is sunken eyes. This is also a main symptom of dehydration.

A lot of what’s important in human health also translates to calves. The same signs and treatments also apply. The key to helping calves get over any sickness is catching it early and treating it fast.