Many Oklahoma cattlemen have traditionally relied heavily on hay to meet the winter forage needs of their cow herds. Typically, all available pastures of bermudagrass and native grass are grazed and/or hayed to the point that, by the time frost occurs in the fall, it is necessary to provide hay to maintain cow body condition.


Many Oklahoma cattlemen have traditionally relied heavily on hay to meet the winter forage needs of their cow herds. Typically, all available pastures of bermudagrass and native grass are grazed and/or hayed to the point that, by the time frost occurs in the fall, it is necessary to provide hay to maintain cow body condition.

This is continued throughout the winter and early spring months until enough growth accumulates to sustain the cows.

This production system requires approximately two tons of hay per cow to be harvested, stored and carried back to the cattle. Provided fair to good quality hay is put up, cows will come through winter in reasonably good shape with little supplementation.

However, as the cow/calf operations look for ways to cut costs, reducing the total dependency on winter hay and optimizing the use of grazed forages can be an important economic strategy.

Stockpiling forage involves managing for grass to accumulate in the pasture and then grazing it as dry, standing forage during the fall and winter. Some forages and classes of cattle are better suited to this practice than others.

For example, spring-calving cows with proper supplementation can be maintained the entire winter on dormant native pasture, while the quality of stockpiled bermudagrass deteriorates more rapidly, requiring some other forage source in late December during normal years.

Young, growing cattle cannot achieve economical performance where dormant grass is the majority of their diet. However, most ranches have the opportunity to utilize stockpiled forage to some degree and postpone the date at which they must start feeding hay.

Fescue, wheat and ryegrass, begin cool-season forages, can accumulate enough growth by the middle of the winter to provide a significant amount of grazing when there is adequate fall moisture. If cattlemen will keep livestock off these cool-season grasses in early fall, the number of days requiring hay can be reduced further.

On most cattle operations, a supply of hay will be needed to fill gaps when grazing is not feasible, such as ice storms, rainy days and the rare snow cover. By whittling away at the number of days that hay is fed, harvesting, hauling, storing and feeding waste costs can be reduced.

As harvested forage needs are lowered, the economics of hiring someone else to put up your hay supply or purchasing hay should be considered. Any system that extends the grazing season generally lowers production costs.

(Source: Kent Barnes, Extension Area

Livestock Specialist)

Bovine Dentition:

An Oral Check-up for the Cows . . .

In the competitive world of today's beef industry, producers cannot afford to keep marginally productive cows when they can be replaced with more profitable females.

In the face of high fertilizer prices, many producers are looking at herd reductions. One of the priorities of selecting cull cows is the age of the cow.

Determining the age of cows up to 5 years is simple and accurate. Simply put, she has two permanent incisors as a 2-year old, four as a 3-year old, 6 as a 4-year old, and a full mouth of 8 permanent incisors when she is five.

After five years, age determination is not as accurate, but is still close enough for practical purposes. At this point, we really don't care how old she is as much as we care how efficiently she can graze. As she gets older, the teeth wear down to be less blade-shaped and more triangular and spaces start to appear between the teeth.

Your County OSU Extension has a handy pictorial display that could be laminated and displayed on or near the working chute to assist you with aging cows.

This is a simple and effective management tool to identify the right cows for culling and to reduce supplemental feed costs.

"A river is a report card for its watershed."

-- Alan Levere