Winter Forage for Cattle

Nutrition : Forage

Chad Zehnder, Ph.D.

Field Cattle Consultant

It’s winter, and you’re likely doing one of two things with your cattle: feeding stored forages or grazing dormant forages. So, when it comes to winter forage for cattle, what are some best practices?

1. Evaluate forage inventory.

If you haven’t already, the first thing to look at during winter is your forage inventory – how much feed is on hand? What do you have available, and how many pounds do you have? Will it be enough to fulfill winter cattle requirements? Your nutritionist can help you work through the math and figure out if you need to fill a gap in your stores of winter forage for cattle

2. Pay attention to cattle forage quality.

Forage quality encompasses nutrient and storage quality. Knowing storage quality means you know your risk for molds, yeasts, mycotoxins, and much more. It’s important to forage test to determine exactly what you have available. Results allow you to match pounds and quality of inventory to cattle requirements.

Avoid eyeballing forage quality for two reasons:
  • First, if you purchase forage, quality is assumed or unknown until you test.
  • Second, you’re at risk of not meeting cattle requirements. Without a test, you don’t know if you’re fulfilling cattle needs and you may lose performance as a result. 

3. Fill the forage gap.

Create a cattle supplementation plan to match forage quantity and quality. If there is a gap, protein will often be the first limiting nutrient. A good cattle supplement, like Purina Accuration® Supplements with Intake Modifying Technology® will not only help fill the nutrient gap – it’ll also help optimize digestibility and intake of low-quality winter forage for cattle. Purina Accuration® Supplements come in many forms and are a great way to ensure cattle have what they need through winter and beyond.

The bottom line? Know what you’re feeding your cattle and have a plan to fill any nutritional gaps, so you’re not forced to make a knee-jerk reaction when cattle performance drops.

Find out how your nutrition programs stacks up with a Proof Pays feeding trial.