Pasture and Forage Minute: Inventorying Forage Supply

Cattle eating hay

Pasture and Forage Minute: Inventorying Forage Supply

Inventorying Remaining Forage Supply

By Todd Whitney

Groundhog Day traditionally pegs our midway point through winter, so now may be a good time to inventory your remaining hay and forage. 

Our mostly drier winter conditions have likely stretched your cornstalks and crop residues. Still the question remains: Will you have enough hay and forage to last the remainder of winter? 

When making your feed decisions, consider using “best” and “worst” case scenarios. Focus on completing a thorough inventory, accounting for all feed resources such as counting all bales available and calculate remaining silage. Estimate remaining forage grazing and assign economic values. 

Compare what feed resources you have versus your herd needs. For example, each 1,200 pounds lactating cow may consume 32 pounds of forage per day, so an average 200 cow herds may need 3.2 tons of hay per day — not accounting for waste. 

Focus on making the best use of your feed resources. Would it be financially wise to sell your excess higher quality forage and feed the rest? If mild winter conditions continue, selling extra forage could generate more cashflow toward paying taxes, land payments or other crop input costs. 

If your cows are thin, consider the opposite — sell your lower quality forage and feed your higher quality. 

Cows with lower condition scores need more protein and energy to keep from dropping body condition and maintaining their milk production. 

Remember you can’t effectively manage what you do not measure. If you need assistance, Nebraska Extension educational resources are available online at CropWatch, BeefWatch and UNL Beef.

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