Getting ready for summer feeding

By: James Sprague

Even though Mother Nature still says it’s winter outside, now is the time to start planning for summer. Planning ahead, especially for construction or drilling wells is essential if you hope to take advantage of the improvements before the summer heat sets in.

Maintenance issues

The time to evaluate your water supply is now. If water wells need repair or a new one drilled, it is better to plan ahead for the hot weather. The demand for drinking water may double during hot weather this summer. Water quality is critical. If in doubt, get it checked. A pollutant may have leached into the water since your last chemical tests were performed.

The concrete slabs around drinking areas often need repair after the winter feeding period and manure is removed in the spring. Develop a system for pen riders or feed truck drivers to make a list of pens they see that need maintenance. Often these employees see the conditions and can relay the information to the maintenance crew.

After a winter feeding season, roads in front of feedbunks often need repair. During manure removal, many times dirt should be added behind the feeding slabs.

Shades are not needed in many feedlots, but for feed yards in the sunbelts and in the desert areas, shades are essential for cattle performance. Examine shades now for needed repairs and decide if any should be relocated for more efficient use. Making design changes now will allow plans to be put to use this spring.

Consider ration changes

The cost of feeds and roughages has been extreme for several months. A green chop forage program could help with the cost of roughage for starting and finishing rations. Many green forages have been used successfully. Certainly chopped oat forage is one of the favorites, however it is available for only a short time period. Green chop alfalfa forage has the potential for longer supply compared to small grain green chop. Some of the green chop can be used as silage.

One summer feeding problem is the high intake of feed stuffs compared to winter feeding. This can appear as an “over-full” animal that is not extreme “bloat.” One tactic to reduce bloat is cut the green chop in the afternoon and feed it the next day. This tends to reduce the bloating effect of the “fresh-cut” green chop alfalfa.

Using ionophores helps to slightly hold the intake, and bloat is usually reduced. Work with your nutritionists and veterinarians to design feeding program to reduce bloat.

Adding water to rations

Over the years I have watched cattle feeders add a small amount of water to finish rations. Anthony Cortese at Pueblo, Colorado, adds a small amount of water to his dry rolled finishing rations.  This practice helps keep the fines from separating in the feed bunk. Certainly liquid feed ingredients also are important in keeping a mixed ration from segregating as the cattle consume the feed.

One thought with high grain costs is to consider reconstituting dry grain to improve feeding efficiency. This was confirmed by research and experience by Dr. Kelly Kreikemeir of West Point, Nebraska.

 If corn or milo grain is reconstituted to produce high moisture  (HM) grain, the level and methods for the process is critical. The moisture must be brought up to 30 percent or more to get a “good-do” of the procedure. In my opinion HM corn at 25 percent moisture is not as good as dry rolled or feeding whole corn.

When adding moisture to dry grain, for every percentage point of moisture needed, you have to add at least 1.5 percentage points of water.  In all cases with dry grain, it will take a two stage system to get the water to absorb in the grain and get the reconstitution process.

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