A tapered-cone feeder can reduce winter feeding costs when compared to shredding large bales with a bale processor.

North Dakota State University researchers conducted a three-year study to evaluate the effect of hay feeding methods on cow wintering costs.

Methods were: 1) round bales fed by rolling bales on the ground, 2) round bales shredded with a power takeoff-driven bale processor and fed on the ground, and 3) round bales fed by placing the bale in a tapered-cone round bale feeder. A total of 360 crossbred cows in their third trimester of pregnancy were used over the three-year period of study, fed for an average of 59 days. Alfalfa grass hay was fed during the first two years, followed by oat hay the last year. Data were used to prepare an economic analysis model with budgets for 100- and 300-cow reference herds.

Compared with treatments 1 and 2, feeding bales in a tapered-cone feeder significantly increased cow weight gain; resulted in greater positive rib fat gain; reduced hay consumption an average of 10.2%; and reduced hay waste in two years of the study when alfalfa-grass hay was fed, but not when oat hay was fed. Average cost/cow over the three-year period for a 100-cow herd were $109, $127 and $100.30 for treatments 1, 2, and 3, respectively.

Over the three-year period, using a tapered-cone round bale feeder reduced wintering cost by 21% for the 100-cow reference herd and 17.6% for the 300-cow reference herd, compared to feeding with a bale processor.

Under the conditions of this study, feeding round bales in a tapered-cone feeder clearly had an advantage over the other two methods. The round bale roll-out method was intermediate in cost.
Landblom et al. 2006. North Dakota State University Beef Cattle & Range Research Report

Processing barley may improve starch digestibility for cows.

Montana State University scientists conducted three experiments to evaluate the effects of age (cows vs. calves) and barley processing method (whole vs. rolled) on diet digestibility and animal performance when barley was fed as a supplement at 0.5% of body weight with medium-quality grass hay.

In Experiment 1, organic matter and nitrogen digestibility were significantly greater when diets were consumed by calves compared to cows. Rolling barley improved starch digestibility for cows but not for calves.

In Experiment 2, animals fed a hay-only control diet had similar rates and efficiencies of weight gain as those fed diets supplemented with light test-weight barley. Barley processing had no significant effect on rate or efficiency of gain for either cows or calves.

In Experiment 3, processing method had no effect on starch digestibility.

Based on the results of Experiment 1, barley processing may improve starch digestibility when fed to cows, but there appears to be no advantage to processing barley when fed to calves.
Rainey et al. 2006. Professional Animal Scientist, 22:236

After working cattle, return them to pens with peers and avoid unnecessary human contact to moderate stress.

Seeking information on how to moderate post-handling stress after a period of restraint, Japanese and Australian researchers investigated the attractiveness of different conditions to cattle.

After two minutes of restraint in a squeeze chute, Angus heifers were individually allowed to choose between two pens. After the heifer had chosen a pen, she could freely access both test pens and the choice area for a further five minutes.

In experiment one, each heifer was given one of the following choices: a pen with three familiar heifers (PEERS) vs. a pen with a pile of hay on a metal rack (FOOD); PEERS vs. the bare pen (BARE); and FOOD vs. BARE. When the combination was PEERS vs. BARE, more heifers chose PEERS. When the choice combination was PEERS vs. FOOD, heifers chose PEERS. FOOD and BARE did not differ. The latency to chose either pen was shorter if PEERS were one of the two choices.

In the second experiment, 86 heifers were given one of the following choices: a pen with a familiar handler standing inside (STI) vs. a pen with a novel object (NO); a pen with the handler standing outside the pen (STO) vs. NO; or a pen in which the handler was sitting inside (SI) vs. NO. The number of times in which the NO pen was entered was greater than the STI and STO, although the number of times in which the SI and NO pens were entered was not different. More heifers avoided the human, particularly a standing human.

The researchers concluded that just after handling with restraint, returning cattle to the group of peers and not approaching the cattle needlessly should moderate their stress.
Ishiwata, et al. 2007. Journal of Animal Science, 85:1080