Supplementing Winter Cover Crops with Self Feeders

Oct 26, 2020

Frank Morey
Countryside Feed Livestock Product Specialist
Whether you’re feeding stockers, gestating cows, cow/calf pairs or yearlings, it’s important to provide an adequate energy source when grazing your herd on winter cover crops. In most cases, producers in our region turn to lesser-quality winter forages, like prairie hay and winter brome grass pastures. While those offer protein, they lack the energy levels your animals need to thrive.
When selecting the right feed supplement for your animals, you need to consider rumen health. The rumen has both fiber-digesting and starch-digesting bacteria, so maintaining the right pH balance is essential to achieve optimal digestion. I liken it to running a 2-stroke engine. If you don’t mix the right oil-to-gas ratio, you risk ruining the cylinder.
At Countryside Feed, we recommend supplementing your herd’s diet with a product from Purina’s line of quality Accuration® cattle supplements. These products excel at balancing the nutritional deficiencies in fair- or lesser-quality forages. There are several different product formulations to choose from, based on the types of animals you’re feeding and the stages they’re at. Each utilize Purina’s Intake Modifying Technology® process to help assure the targeted daily intake goal, which is only 1 percent of an animal’s body weight. (Two or 3 percent is too high.)
Controlling consumption is an important component of using self feeders. If you don’t, your animals run the risk of bloat and lactic acid buildup that can lead to paralysis or death in the most serious cases. When using corn-based creep feed, producers usually limit intake by hand feeding or starting with a high salt level. But Purina’s Intake Modifying Technology® eliminates the concern by encouraging cattle to eat supplement multiple times per day rather than consuming it all in one meal.
With a snack-eating approach, rumen bug populations thrive because they get adequate levels of protein, energy and minerals throughout the day. Snack-eating also helps stabilize rumen pH levels. Purina research shows a 15 to 20 percent increase in grazing time and forage intake for cattle on Accuration® supplement versus a conventional hand-fed supplement. This enables you to effectively utilize your greatest resource – your grass or hay.
When using self feeders, be sure to take the following steps to ensure animals have access to an adequate amount of food:
  • Ensure that plenty of forage is available to the animals. Accuration® products are not a complete feed option.
  • Bring in hay if it snows, because the animals won’t be able to access what’s already in the field if there’s significant accumulation.
  • Limit the opening of the feeder to slow down intake. The opening should be around the combined width of your index and middle fingers.
  • Keep feeders full, and supply enough feeders per head. Usually one feeder per 25 animals is sufficient. But if you have large animals, supply one feeder for every 15 to 20 head. 
Accuration® cattle supplements qualify for all-natural beef programs, and they’re also compatible with medicated premixes like Rumensin® and Bovatec®, both of which help improve feed efficiency and effectively control coccidiosis.*

As mentioned earlier, we carry a wide variety of Accuration® cattle supplement products, so don’t hesitate to contact your local Countryside Feed nutritionist for assistance in selecting the right ones for your operation. We’re always just a phone call away to help you make the right choice for your cattle.
*Per manufacturer instructions, do not use Rumensin or Bovatec in calves to be processed for veal.

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