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Ensuring Extended Winter Grazing Success

14 December 2012
Beef Cattle Research Council

CANADA - Farmers in the west of the country are benefiting from new management methods which extend the outdoor period for cattle over winter, according to the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC).

Savings can be made on the cost of yarding cattle as well as the price of buying feed through management techniques such as swath grazing, a publication by BCRC Science Director Dr Reynold Bergen and Beef Specialist at Alberta Beef Producers, Karin Schmid has claimed.

Cattle experts, Mrs Schmid and Dr Bergen have found that yarding costs and feed costs can be reduced by 78 and 25 per cent respectively as well as environmental benefits such as residue and manure management.

This can be done by bale grazing, offering stockpiled forage and strip grazing. Elements to consider when out wintering cattle like shelter and water have been forefronted as areas of concern by Dr Reynolds and Mrs Schmid. They warn that a moderate 35km/h breeze can make -25C feel like -40C and that, depsite water consumption dropping in witner, a 1450 lb cow (the average cow size in Alberta) still needs 10 to 15 gallons/day, depending on stage of gestation.

Extended grazing in Canadian winters requires some added planning and management due to the varying nutritional requirements of mature animals, heifers and young cows, BCRC have recommended. Inside these differences are fairly easy to manage in a confined feeding system; however, managing the different classes of cattle during winter grazing requires more care.

The BCRC have advised to keep note of cattle body condition in autumn which should be around 2.5-3 entering the winter period. The importance of starting the winter with cattle in good health is important as building up size is difficult in an energy intensive winter, the BCRC warned.

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