October weather concerns are usually focused on getting the corn and beans in the bin before the snow flies, but this is also the time to start thinking about our winter cow feeding plans as well. Here are a few tasks to check off your list on the next rainy day or as soon as the harvest is completed.

1. Subdivide or rotate your corn stalk fields. Group cows into larger units and rotate to fresh stalks about weekly. This will provide a better quality diet later into the winter grazing season by preventing the selective grazing early in the season.

2. Inventory your winter feed supply if you haven’t already, both quantity and quality.

3. Sample your hay supply by field and cutting, and send it in for nutrient analysis. If you are unsure about the procedures or testing labs, check out the forage page on our web site at http://www.iowabeefcenter.org/content/hay_production.html .

4. Determine supplement feeds based on the lowest cost per unit of nutrient. Watch for opportunities to purchase corn co-products now and store for future feeding.

5. Plan your rations based on stage of production: mid-gestation, late gestation, early lactation, and developing heifers, first and second calf heifers, and bulls.

6. Determine total winter feed needs. A 1300-lb cow will consume about 3500-4000 lb of feed in the average four-to-five month winter feeding period. Top producers can limit intake to closer to 3000 lb per cow depending on crop residue grazing, weather conditions, alternative feeds available, and feeding methods.

7. Purchase additional forages before peak feeding time or bale cornstalks before quality deteriorates, if feed supply is short.

8. Check hay feeders and repair if needed. A Michigan study compared four different feeder styles, two round feeders and two cradle-type feeders. The typical round bale ring feeder had 6% feeding loss, while that same ring with a cone insert to keep the bale up off the ground had only 3.5% loss. The cradle-type feeder with single bars and a bottom bunk or floor, had 14.6% loss, where a trailer type cradle feeder with double bars had only 11.4% waste. The slanted bar designs of the trailer and cone feeder encourage animals to keep their head in the feeder for longer periods while eating and protected the timid cows from the dominant cows.

9. Determine a plan for adding value through a high energy retained ownership program if cull cows haven’t already been sold.

Source: Denise Schwab,Beef Specialist, Iowa State University Extension