We had a bit of a cold bluster blast in yesterday and apparently my cows mobbed up on the side of hill to get away from the wind and stomped a muddy mess. Since this is cow killing mud time of the year, i discovered that an old cow (she is 20 years old this year and had started a rapid decline in health about 2 weeks ago) had gotten knee deep in cold mud and she was dead this Sunday morning. Another cow had laid down and got herself cast and under the fence, but she was still alive, so i hooked on with the log chain and dragged her to a dry spot where I could fold her legs under her, then pull her head around so she could sit up. She is a young cow and she sat up, so i’m hoping she’ll pull through and be able to stand in a few hours.
All this had me running late for getting back home to fix lunch for Jerry and my husband and son. Thankfully, i didn’t have a complicated meal plan. The eggs were already hard cooked, so just peeled them, chopped them up then added a can of water packed, wild caught tuna, and 1 tablespoon organic pickle relish then stirred it up with my homemade mayonnaise. I did have to make a fresh batch of mayonnaise, but that doesn’t take long. Served on a bed of lettuce.
I had planned to talk about the challenges of feeding hay in the winter in north Missouri last year, but never got around to it. As it turns out, there are a different set of challenges this year, so i’ll roll them in to one blog.
Winter of 2017-2018 was really long, cold, bitter, but it was too long ago and though i know it was a challenge, i can’t remember. So, starting with winter 2018-2019, which was the second consecutive long winter following a drought made for a very tough feeding season despite selling about 30% of my cows/calves.
My plan was to set out hay for bale grazing in July while it was dry, leaving the Netwrap on for protection of the hay, then using electric polybraid to ration it out to the cows in the hopes of minimizing waste. Sounds like a plan, but you what happens to best laid plans. I did set it all out – about 70 bales spaced appropriately on about 5 acres, then set up the tape. then came the bitter winter early on along with deep, deep snow. Of course, then with no way of removing the Netwrap because of snow and ice and snow and wind took down and buried the polybraid. Cows and calves had their way with the hay.
Unfortunately, the amount of mud and trampling destroyed the 1/4 mile roll of polybraid and the Netwrap from 70 bales is buried. I needed to remove it before grass grows but it was impossible even with Dallas using the harrow to try and pull it up a bit. Sadly, most of it is still out in the pasture even now February, 2020. But the resultant organic matter definitely improved forage production!
This year (2019-2020) blessedly has been mild by comparison of the past two winter. Though we had an early cold snap, it didn’t really dig in cold until Jan 11 when a blizzard rolled in (the day i arrived from Fundo Panguilemu) with 1/4 inch of ice by the time i got to my pickup in the economy parking at airport.
I had started feeding hay way back in August to allow as much forage to grow for winter grazing as possible. Thankfully, we had an excellent growing season though a late start in 2019. However, the two previous years of drought has set back our typical production. But haying while it’s dry only works if your growing paddocks are out of reach for the cows – otherwise, they will practically refuse to eat hay if they see green growing grass.
The freezing spell which lasted until the 31st of January allowed us to unroll hay on frozen ground, but couldn’t take off the netwrap very often because it was frozen to the bale. We cut it across the bale so we could at least unroll it, but that leaves the netwrap under the hay.
Today (2 Feb 20), it was warm enough for me to survive outside for a while (actually spent 3 hours outside because it was 55F!), yet though thawed enough that i could pull up some of the netwrap from underneath the hay that the cows had left behind.
While i was gone to Chile (first of January), it was dry enough that Dallas was able to unroll about 22 bales on another location that needed more organic matter, so that is set for later to be eaten. And in December, Brett had set out about 30 bales with netwrap removed on a section that needs soil building with organic matter before breaking through the barely frozen mud. So once the cows run out of grazing (hopefully there is enough to last ’til first of March), then they’ll back track to these areas where hay is already set out.
I set up the polybraid around the remaining bales hoping they won’t need to be fed this winter. Time will tell. But unless it freezes hard again, it may not dry out until July or August.
Welcome to north Missouri – always 2 weeks from a drought in the summer and cow killing mud under sometimes deep snow and ice in the winter. It’s been said there are 3 good days a year in north Missouri.
Snow has kept me from getting out of our driveway since i returned from Fundo Panguilemu – arriving at MCI in a snow and ice storm on 11 Jan. However, the day i arrived, i got back into the habit of growing sprouts for health and greens. Now, my husband and son refuse to eat sprouts, so they have green beans or nothing.
Finally, got to town last Friday (24 Jan)- all three of us crowded into the four wheel drive pickup since we combined scooping snow off the sidewalks at the church, stopping in at the bank, and the grocery shopping (picked up a clam shell of organic lettuce/spinach). The shopping had to fit in three cloth bags and tied to the back of the flatbed pickup. It was a bit soggy on the bottom of the sacks, because of melted snow, dirty hay, and mud – but it was not big deal – main thing we didn’t lose anything blowing off. (First world problems HA!)
Thank you to Tim Schafer who lives near Maryville, Missouri for this fabulous photo from a farm he leases illustrating his sheep winter grazing on soybean stubble. Awesome! He also has cattle grazing soybean stubble.
This is an issue i had yet to hear ever addressed! Thankful that On Pasture provided much needed information. If possible, to get cover crops growing after soybeans are harvested and before winter grazing, that would be a win-win for grazing and establishing living roots for soil stabilization.
After soybeans are harvested, cows sometimes are put out on the residues to graze. Some bean residues are even baled. But how good is this feed?
We’re all familiar with the usefulness of grazing corn stalks, but I see more and more residue from soybean fields grazed every year. Cows seem to like licking up what’s left behind after combining. But frankly, I’m a little concerned that some folks may think their cows are getting more from those soybean residues than what truly is there.
The problem is a matter of perception. When most of us think of soybeans, we think high protein so we expect soybean residues will be a high protein feed, too. Unfortunately, the opposite is true; soybean residue is very low in protein.
Soybean stems and pods contain only about 4 to 6 percent crude protein, well below the 7 to 8 percent needed for minimum support of a dry beef cow. Even though leaves can be up to 12 percent protein, it’s only around one-third digestible, so that’s not much help. In fact, protein digestibility is low in all bean residues.
Energy is even worse. TDN averages between 35 and 45 percent for leaves, stems, and pods. This is even lower than wheat straw. As a result, cows fed only bean residue can lose weight and condition very quickly. Heavy supplementation is needed to maintain cow health.
This doesn’t mean soybean residues are worthless for grazing or even baled. They can be a good extender of much higher quality hay or silage. However, cattle must be fed quite a bit of higher energy and protein feeds to make up for the deficiencies in soybean residues.
Don’t be misled into thinking bean residues are as good or better than corn stalks. Otherwise, you and your cows will suffer the consequences.
Bruce is a professor of agronomy and extension forage specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He works with grazing systems and does research on annual forages, utilization of warm-season grasses, forage quality in hay and pasture systems and using legumes to improve pastures.
Last winter was a nightmare of feeding hay. We knew that winter stockpile for grazing was in short supply because we’d had two years of drought followed by wet weather AFTER the growing season in the fall. We sold about 30% of our cows and had a normal supply of hay yet that wasn’t enough because winter began much earlier and wouldn’t let up until late May. This was the second severe and harsh winter in a row. Cows came out of it this spring in pretty rough condition. Not wanting to ever get in that spot again, we researched inline hay trailers to help us haul hay home from local purchases. After watching a lot of Youtube videos and learning about the various brands and what to look for, we decided on a Missouri built model Freedom Hay Trailers that we purchased from a Raymer Farms Sales & Service near Green City, MO. (Actually just accidentally found them on Craigslist whilst searching for more hay this past spring (2019))
Allen purchased another 270 bales here just a couple weeks ago and the weather was perfect for hauling on gravel roads and dumping into pastures, so i got crackin’ and ended up pulling 11 loads to my farm about 13 miles from the hay field to my farm and includes mostly narrow, uneven, hilly, bumpy paved roads followed by 2 miles of steep single lane gravel/dirt roads then pulled into the pasture. Except for loading, i handled the pulling, net removal, and dumping by myself. Allen had hauled several loads from another location earlier this year. I don’t know how we got along now without it! Very convenient time saver.
The best for animal husbandry and land stewardship is often a balanced decision. These past two years in north-central/northwest Missouri and a bit of southwest Iowa makes grazing management decisions tough to call. Two years of unusually dry and hot summers each followed by severe cold and long winters has left our pastures and pasture management in tatters. The following article printed in Midwest Marketer magazine is from Iowa State UniversityExtension beef specialists Erika Lundy and Denise Schwab offers some ideas for consideration. We live in toxic endophyte fescue country, so it is not a best practice to encourage its growth with the addition of any type of applied nitrogen. Legumes planted can mitigate the effects by replacing the poisonous grass, but must be managed with proper grazing.
“Unsuccessful people make decisions based on current situations. Successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.” ~ Benjamin Hardy
This kind of goes along with ‘don’t go to the grocery store when you are hungry’.
The weather has been so dismally cold, windy, frozen, snowy, icy, miserable here in north Missouri, i decided to head south a bit to seek sun and warmer temps under the guise of looking for new land for me cows. Sadly, i seemed to drag the cold weather around with me, although one day was warm enough for 3 hours of saddle time on a good mount with great friends. A little hiking and exploring, but by and large it was too cold. One cold afternoon in Eureka Springs, i managed 2 miles in this cute, but busy town, followed by expert mani/pedi before heading north to Ozark, MO.
Although, paradise wasn’t found anywhere on my 2 1/2 week sojourn, my time was better spent visiting and catching up with friends and family. It was a wonderful time to observe, think, share, reflect, and be lifted in spirit.