Livestock needs cold care

Published 12:45 am Monday, December 3, 2007

VIDALIA — With the winter comes the cold, and with the cold come special needs for livestock.

For the larger livestock, both cattle and horses, producers need to feed the animals supplements to their normal feeding routine, Dr. Byron Garrity of Bluff City Veterinary Hospital said.

“Nutrition is one of the major calls to my veterinary business this time of year,” Garrity said.

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Properly stored hay is the ideal winter staple for both cattle and horses, but they do need supplemental grain, he said.

And when it comes to hay, different animals need different hays. Cattle can eat the large, round bales of hay, but horses need the higher quality square bales.

“The square bales are ideal for horses because the quality is better in the smaller bales and they can be stored in the barn, and that helps maintain the nutrient value of the hay,” Garrity said. “With the round bales, they sit out in the open, and the lose a lot of nutritional value because the top and sides of that bale basically become the roof and walls of the barn for that bale.”

The lost nutritional value in those bales can become a problem, especially during calving season.

“No matter how much they eat they don’t get the nutrients to stay warm enough to have a baby or nurse a baby,” Garrity said.

Another winter failure among many cattlemen new to the business is that they don’t start feeding their animals winter feed early enough.

“They don’t need to wait to put out hay with the first frost because the nutrient content of the grass has been diminishing since September,” Garrity said. “By the time the ribs and backbones are showing on an animal it’s kind of late. It’s next to impossible to put weight on cattle during the winter.”

“They should already be feeding hay and grain,” he said.

Keeping enough hay to last the winter is also important, and producers need to keep at least five bales of hay per head of cattle, and those raising horses should plan on feeding a square bale a week for the entire feeding period from October to mid-February.

It is also important to factor in feeding for pregnant animals.

“A lot of guys figure their bottom line on a per head basis and fail to add in for additional demands of pregnancy or a cow nursing a young calf,” Garrity said. “They demand twice as much energy to feed.

It is best to plan for a 150-day winter feeding period, Garrity said.

“It’s better to have extra hay than to run out,” he said. “When you run out you’re not going to be able to find any more because everyone else has also run out, and if you have extra then you can sell it to others who might need it.”