Winter Feeding Strategies for Beef Cows

(Sponsored Content)

Winter is coming fast, and during this time, it is important to consider your winter beef cow ration fed to your dry cows, so they are in top body condition and health at calving time. Calving is just a couple months away or less, depending on when your operation starts spring calving.

Optimal body condition at calving is 5 to 6 on a scale from 1-9. The dry period and middle third of lactation are the easier and least costly times to add condition to the cow. Ideally, they should gain 1.5 pounds per day or one-half to three-fourths points of body condition score per month. Generally, a cow eats 2.0% to 2.5% of her body weight in dry matter each day. It is important to note that temperature plays a large role in a cow’s nutritional needs.

To have the most optimal and cost-effective ration, it is crucial to test your forages, so you know what nutrient values you have to work with and if feed supplements are necessary. Work with your nutritionist for ration balancing. With hay prices higher this season and other feedstuffs cheaper, this may be the year to consider substituting corn or other co-products to your winter cow ration, especially if you are short on hay. If you’re thinking of substituting corn into the diet, a rule of thumb is to feed the cow at least one pound of hay per 100 pounds of body weight. For the remainder of hay, use the 1 pound of corn to 2 pounds of hay substitution guideline. Cows will act less hungry if they get fed 10-15 pounds of hay compared to reducing it more. To help determine if this could be a cost saving measure, one can utilize the “Hay-Corn Substitution Calculator” for beef winter cow rations found on the UW-Extension WI Beef Information Center website under the Decision Tools and Software tab. There are other tools for evaluating feeds and rations on this tab as well. Remember, the output is only as good as the information entered, and cow response to intake and feed can vary.

There are other factors to keep in mind during winter feeding. Things to consider include adequate bunk space of 26-30 inches per cow and water consumption. Decreased water consumption due to an iced-over stock tank can decrease feed intake. Also make sure hay waste is kept to a minimum with proper feeding equipment in the cow yard or barn.

In summary, a balanced ration will help get your beef cows through winter and be at optimum body condition and health at calving season. For more information about the beef industry, visit the Wisconsin Beef Information Center or contact your local extension office.

Ashley Olson, University of Wisconsin Extension


To read more articles like this one:


Winter Feeding Hay in the Field

Plan to Reduce Feeding Costs with Silage

Planning Can Minimize Winter Feeding Cost


Dairy Herd Management

Winter Feeding Strategies: Easy for Dairy; Tougher for Beef

Top 5 Priorities for Fall/Winter Dairy Feeding Programs

Baleage is Different Than All Other Forage Making Practices


Sponsored by Lallemand Animal Nutrition



Latest News

Winter cattle feeding
Cash Cattle Weaker As Grain Rallies

Cash cattle prices slipped lower throughout the week as packer demand was called moderate. Grain markets posted a significant rally on the heels of USDA's report on Tuesday.

2 hours ago
Packing plant workers
Fired Tyson Managers: ‘Betting Pool’ Stories Distorted

Former Tyson Foods Waterloo, Iowa, plant managers dispute claims of how an "office pool" regarding COVID-19 was portrayed in news stories and deny it was about how many employees would contract the virus.

1 hour ago
Dream Lake with Hallett Peak in the background, at Rocky Mountain National Park.
Hi-Plains Researchers To Help Protect Rocky Mountain National Park

A Texas A&M AgriLife team will work with the Colorado Livestock Association and other stakeholders to refine and evaluate practices to reduce agricultural ammonia emissions into Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

12 min ago
AL Ranch
Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. Launches “MBA NextGen”

MBA NextGen updates the popular MBA training modules making it easier than ever for a new generation of farmers and ranchers to share their story and advocate knowledgeably for the beef industry.

8 min ago
Greg Henderson
Overall Meat Sales Higher In 2020

Meat sales - both dollar values and volume - were significantly higher in 2020. Those gains, however, came at the expense of a crippled restaurant and food service industry that may take years to recover.

9 min ago
Progressive Beef
Progressive Beef and Wendy’s® Advance Partnership

Wendy's announces 15% increase in percentage of beef sourced through Progressive Beef-certified producers in 2020; on track to meet goal of at least 50% this year.

14 min ago