With winter on the horizon, cattle producers are preparing for winter and spring grazing, ration needs, and heifer development in their beef cow herds. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef program specialist Joe Sellers has created a workshop to address these needs, scheduled for Tuesday, November 18, at the McNay Research Farm southwest of Chariton, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Sellers and ISU Extension and Outreach farm management program specialist Charles Brown will address a number of timely issues at the Beef Cow Wintering Workshop, including beef cow ration planning, cost-effective heifer development, tips and tools for grazing contracts, managing stockpiled fescue, and using the University of Nebraska's corn stalk grazing calculator.
As feed costs have declined and calf prices have risen dramatically, Sellers notes, "a lot of things are more economical this year." This includes feeding corn, corn silage, stover, and co-products, which Sellers says more Iowa beef cow producers are doing lately. Of course, feed costs as a whole, including summer grazing and winter feed costs, are still the biggest cost for cow-calf producers. "Reducing winter stored feed is a key driver for profitability."
Winter grazing in the fescue belt
The dominant grass is southern Iowa, tall fescue, happens to be one of the best grasses for stockpiling, which will be discussed at the workshop. "It holds its nutrient value longer than other grasses as it goes through the winter," Sellers says. "Especially early on, the stockpile is very likely of higher quality than the first cutting of hay that people feed to the cow."
Of course, fescue has its drawbacks, and those can persist into winter. At the workshop, Sellers will discuss some of the symptoms associated with fescue toxicity, including loss of tail switches and fescue foot, and how to avoid these issues.
"Some people think there are no problems grazing fescue in winter because they think the alkaloid is all in the seed head, but even leaves have some alkaloids in them," Sellers says. "Especially in young cattle that are still growing, there's still some risk grazing in November and December."
Cutting back on winter feed costs
Also on the agenda for November 18 is one of Iowa's most under-utilized winter grazing, corn stalks. "There's no doubt that corn stalks aren't the same as they were 30 years ago," Sellers says. "The stalk portion of the plant is definitely not as high quality, but when cows are grazing, they're grazing the husks, leaves and what grain is available. Harvesting is so much more efficient it doesn't leave much grain, but the crop residue can still be good feed, especially early on."
Producers can get higher utilization it stalk acres are allocated through strip grazing. The workshop will discuss a useful tool in managing these cornstalk acres, the University of Nebraska's corn stalk grazing calculator, which helps determine stocking rates based on factors like the number and size of cattle, expected grazing days, available acres, and corn yield.
"If we can get a month of extra grazing out of corn stalks, it would be a big help," Sellers says. "Anything we can do to reduce winter feed costs is a big plus."
The $15 per person registration fee is payable at the door and includes lunch at the farm from Cater 2U. No preregistration is necessary. For more information, see the program brochure on the IBC website, contact Sellers at 641-203-1270 or by email at [email protected]