Canada's offers these tips for minimizing feed waste during winter feeding periods:

  • Livestock trample, over-consume, foul, and use for bedding 25-45% of hay that is fed free-choice.
  • Feed daily to reduce wastage. Provide only enough for a daily feeding, which will force livestock to eat feed that might otherwise be refused or trampled.
  • Over-consumption of feed is a form of wastage. A dry, pregnant cow will eat 20-30% more hay than is required to meet nutritional requirements. Over a 200-day feeding period, a 1,300-lb. cow can consume an extra 1,560 lbs. of feed.
  • Proper feeder design reduces waste. A round bale feeder with a sloped entry bar design saves feed when cows back away from the feeder. A solid lower section in the feeder prevents feed from being pulled out of the bottom.
  • When feeding large round bales, ensure adequate numbers of cattle are present to clean up the feed on a daily basis. All cattle should have space at the feeder at the same time. Too much or too little competition for feed increases waste.
  • Feed outside-stored hay first. Hay stored outside usually has more spoilage during storage and reduced palatability than covered feed. Cattle will waste a greater percentage of poor-quality hay than of good-quality hay.
  • Feed using an electric fence to minimize access and trampling. This is particularly important during times when the ground is soft or wet. By exposing only a portion of the daily feed, cattle will reach under the electric wire and gather the hay by the mouthful. Wastage by trampling and soiling only occurs on hay that they pull out from under the wire.
  • When feeding on the ground, select clean areas daily to improve palatability of feed that's been trampled on.
  • During winter months, select feeding sites that are separate from the cows' resting area. Purposely select areas somewhat exposed to limit the amount of time cows loiter in the feeding area. Cattle typically will come to feed and then return to more protected areas for resting.
  • Depending on the feed's market value, the use of a tub grinder or hay processor may be feasible to reduce wastage and increase consumption of an otherwise unpalatable feed.
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