Dog days of fall and winter hay

Temperatures begin to cool and the days become shorter, causing thoughts of fall and winter to begin entering our minds. Considering how unpredictable the weather can be, you’re more than likely wondering if you’ve made enough hay to make it through the winter. You’re wondering just how long the cattle can stay out on pasture, depending on calving and other considerations. While all of these thoughts are important to your operation, what’s the one thing you’ll more than likely place on the back-burner? Nutrient management.

This practice is typically used heavily during the spring and summer months as those times are the best to apply manures, fertilizers and other elements however, there are a few factors you can add to your strategy to better your nutrients in the ground for next spring:

Test and retest

Lacking forages yield lacking livestock. We spend most of spring and summer applying fertilizers and manures to our grounds based upon soil test results, but how is your hay performing? The soil is a beneficial part to raising your stock, but what goes into their bodies is more important. 

Take what you eat, eat what you take

Just like humans, cattle can be known to waste food. It is suggested that the use of round feeders produce less waste than those that are rectangular. Designed to reduce labor, these systems aren’t always waste friendly, no matter the shape. Moving these systems on a consistent basis around the field you plan to feed during the winter will not only enhance the nutrients in the ground from the hay and manure, but prevent damage in your fields.

Hard work beats talent

With a little more labor than using a round feeder, un-rolling the bales down hills in which feeders are almost impossible prove to make great differences in the nutrient management game. The practice can also be completed in any area, which allows for a larger coverage or nutrient replenishment into the soil from manure as well as the hay itself. 

Consistency is key

The temptation of feeding hay enough to last for days is a tough one to beat, especially during the winter. While this practice seems to be harmless, your stock will waste more than they eat, causing them to consume more or less than their daily needs. Feeding daily more or less forces stock to eat what is required, rather than allowing free access to copious amounts of nutrition with no in-between. 

No matter your nutrient management strategy, it’s important to consider the effects of winter on your soil. Whether we want to believe it or not, soil is the basis of our operations, and paying less attention to it during the fall and winter months can be detrimental to your yields next year. Enjoy the changes of the season rather than dreading them, and make the most of your opportunities to enjoy just how close knit the production of agriculture truly is.

Callie Taylor