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Using Supplements To Stretch Winter Hay Supplies – January 2022

By Justin Miller

Livestock producers were hit hard by 2021’s fall armyworm invasion. The damage pastures and hayfields sustained left some cattle producers strapped for hay this winter. With limited hay supplies, there are several supplementation strategies Alabama farmers can use.

Choosing A Supplement

There are a few items to consider before choosing a supplement. Kim Mullenix, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System beef systems specialist, said the most important consideration is nutritive value of the forage being fed.

“Conducting a forage analysis provides valuable nutritional information,” Mullenix said. “Without a proper analysis, a producer is simply guessing if their strategy meets the needs of their herd.”

A forage analysis will help producers determine if and how much of a supplement is needed. It can also help identify a supplementation strategy that works for the operation.

Producers will need to consider several items pertaining to the herd. Knowing the age and stage of production of their herd, as well as the herd’s body condition score, is vital when selecting a supplement.

“A cow’s nutritional needs increase as the cow approaches late gestation and calving,” Mullenix said. “Nutritional demands also increase for younger cattle — such as first-calf heifers — and for cattle that are 10-plus years old.”

When it comes to body condition score, producers must determine whether their animals need to maintain or gain body weight. Mullenix said producers should score cattle at key times in the production cycle. 

“Producers should score their cattle at weaning, 60 days prior to calving, at calving and prior to breeding,” she said. “At weaning and at 60 days before calving, a supplementation strategy can be adjusted to add daily gain more efficiently.” 

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