There are several ways to reduce winter feeding costs and a later calving season might be the most economical.

North Dakota State University’s (NDSU) Dickinson Research Extension Center has pushed the start of spring calving to May 1. That allows cows to be grazed longer through the winter until third trimester hits in mid-February, says Kris Ringwall, director of the NDSU research center.

A two year research study was conducted with the NDSU Dickinson cow herd showing there can be economic advantages to delaying calving and increasing grazing through the winter. The study ran from November to April, starting November 2012 and ending April 2014.

“As a result of making those calving season changes we just don’t need as good of quality of diet during the coldest time of our winters,” says Doug Landblom, NDSU beef cattle researcher. Landblom and visiting scholar Songul Senturklu conducted the study on feed costs at the research center.

Grazing a mix of stockpiled grasses with corn stalks was the most cost efficient diet at $73.33 per cow, followed by grazing cover crops with corn and sun-flower residues at $140.59. A more traditional winter feeding system of hay supplemented with grain cost $208.81 per cow, and was the most costly diet.

“For beef producers a winter diet doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be adequate,” Landblom says.


Note: This story appears in the November/December issue of Drovers.