To ensure a viable calf crop and a productive summer herd, beef producers must provide adequate feedstuffs throughout the winter. Because the largest component of a winter ration is often forage, an analysis of feedbunk management can keep hay expenditures from sizzling.

Though hay loss and feed waste are inevitable components of most beef production systems, Carl Dahlen, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension beef cattle specialist, advises producers to examine current feeding strategies and look for areas that can be improved.

"Understanding the sources of hay loss from storage and feeding, as well as the impacts of restricting access to hay, can allow producers to develop strategies to optimize feed utilization on their operations," he says, explaining that feed costs often fall between 50-70% of an operation's total winter costs.

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