Strategies to avoid the lack of forage in beef cattle farming

If the purchase of fodder is sometimes unavoidable, limiting the share of unproductive animals, and rationalizing its food system can be a first lever to limit the costs in beef cattle breeding.

After a particularly dry summer and fodder stocks sometimes quite low, it is better to take the lead and rationalize herd management as much as possible to spend the winter serenely. At least that is what Jérémy Douhay of the Livestock Institute advises breeders of suckler cattle on the website of the technical body.

First, perform a inventory makes it possible to project oneself and take the measure of a possible lack of fodder to determine the measures to be put in place. If in some cases the purchase of fodder is unavoidable, optimize herd management can sometimes be enough.

Sale of Reforms

Anticipate animal sales is the first lever to activate. There is no point in keeping unproductive cows, especially since the seasonality of prices means that falling levels are usually observed in autumn. In a context of pressure on the cost of feed, the search for a good level of finish is not necessarily profitable. Pregnancy diagnosis also allows quick separation from empty cows. It is even possible toanticipate reforms by early weaning calves whose mothers are not pregnant.

Early weaning

the weaning quickly makes it possible to anticipate the empty mother reform and not to alter the condition of pregnant mothers too much. The energy needs of a cow after weaning her environmental calf is 7.5 UFL per day, whereas a cow at the end of lactation needs 9 UFL per day.

Weaning is possible between 5 and 6 months, with animals weighing around 200 kg. “Early weaning is all the easier if the calves consume between 1.5 and 2 kg of concentrate per day under the mother before weaning. After weaning, if the weanlings remain on pasture, supplementation will be maintained and rationed. Depending on the availability of grass, between 2 and 4 kg of concentrates will be distributed with possibly hay. »

Have fodder as early as possible in the spring

For Michel Lepertel, independent animal feed adviser interviewed during Space 2022, “if fodder is lacking, we already have to remove unproductive animals “, but beyond herd management, the lack of fodder raises more global questions of production systems. “If we are affected by drought in 2022, 2023 is the year to innovate! You don’t make a career with just one system! »

If fodder is lacking, no uncultivated area in winter

“If fodder is lacking, there shouldn’t be any uncultivated land this winter,” advises Michel Lepertel. “We need to put in place stolen or some meslin for harvest as soon as possible in spring. Given the current context, I recommend harvesting 80% of annual fodder before June 1st to secure yourself and be less prey to summer drought. »

Limit weight loss

Cows in foal, at the end of gestation, first calves and heifers in early calving must maintain their body condition. It is not advisable to go below the NEC 2 before breeding, and 1.5 after the breeding period. A drop in milk production could follow.

Untrimmed cows are easier to keep in condition. A contribution of 70% of the needs can be enough for a short period provided that they are not at the end of gestation. This equates to 6 kg of hay per cow per day. Heifers calved three years old can tolerate a GQM reduction of 300 g/d over a period of 2 to 3 months, or the equivalent of 1 UFL per day without this having any impact on their future performance.

Properly allocate fodder

Matching forage better with animal needs helps to reduce intake of concentrates : good quality fodder, in the form of wraps or hay, should be offered to animals with high energy needs. Working with a mixer, and having several rations according to the needs of the animals can be a way to better manage your fodder stocks.

In the meantime, feeding in a parking lot

For’avoid overgrazing and the depletion of grasslands, many herders fed their animals on small plots. If the return of the rains can make you want to put the cows back on pasture, it is better to give the meadows time to replenish grass stock.

For field feeding, hay is the easiest solution, especially for pregnant cows, cows in the second part of lactation and heifers calving 3 years old. For animals with greater needs (in the first phase of lactation or in preparation for early calving), silage or wrapping are more suitable, or failing that, supplemented hay.

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