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Winter feeding plan for cattle critical this year

The calendar might have the start of winter just under a month out, however, the temperatures have begun to dip and with that producers should be formulating their winter feeding plans.

With a shortage of feed reported across the majority of the prairies due to drought this year, a plan for feeding livestock is extremely important according to Catherine Lang a livestock and feed extension specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture.

"We do encourage producers to consider the quality of their feed as well as the quantity," she said. "If there isn't sufficient feed for the number of animals being overwintered then some tough decisions have to be made on whether to buy feed or whether to reduce the number of animals you're feeding."

While prioritizing the feed for cattle in the herd, top priority should be given to replacement heifers still growing and then pregnant bred cows.

"You need to keep body condition on these animals and the more body condition that they have, the better they'll be able to do through the cold of winter," she said. "Thin cattle don't have those fat reserves and do require more feed than animals that are in a good body condition. Animals who are in a better condition can tolerate those colder winter months where thin cattle really need to put on weight now to be able to maintain over the rest of winter."

The price of feed is also up due to the shortage, but producers wanting their feed to last longer, Lang had a few suggestions.

"Feeding on the ground can be a really high way to waste feed because animals will step on it or push each other into it," she said. "We have seen waste up to 50 per cent on poor quality feeds that are on the ground. If you're going to feed on the ground it's better to try and do that with a wire and to move the wire and keep it adjusted properly. The other thing you could do is feed into a trough and get that feed off the ground so they aren't able to mess it up."

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