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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
rolling the dice

High risk feeds require management

The drought has left a lasting mark in several ways; one being our winter feeds. These feeds were likely prepared during the drought. In large, producers will deal with high-risk and low quality feedstuffs this winter. Without caution and planning, you are just rolling the dice.

So what high risk feeds do you have and how do you manage them correctly? Forages stressed in the drought are good candidates for elevated Nitrates. Corn Silage, Sorghum-Sudan Hays, and Cornstalks bales would be the biggest concern. Testing for nitrates is not expensive (~$20). Testing is the only way to know how to properly feed drought stressed forages. Most high nitrate levels can be managed around. Using a "low nitrate" feedstuff to dilute the ration is the most common way. This could include grains, hays, etc. Limit feeding the high nitrate feed is another option. If you have drought stressed forages get them tested and prepare to apply management to your feeding practices.

Aflatoxin has been prevalent in some areas of Illinois. Corn grain that is high in Aflatoxin is certainly a risky feed. Many challenges arise when dealing with this corn. Storage, species of livestock, stage of production, and inclusion levels for rations all need to be considered when feeding Aflatoxin-bearing corn to livestock. Corn co-products, such as DDGS and CGF, could have raised levels of Aflatoxin. The process occurring to make these feeds does not get rid of Aflatoxin. It actually concentrates the Aflatoxin, thus the levels seen are normally 3 times higher than the corn used. Beware of corn and corn co-products that may be higher in Aflatoxin.

As we have seen the first few frosts of the year, it is important to remember prussic acid poisoning can occur. Mainly sorghums would be the concern here. If you have sorghums, or closely related forages, they would be a high risk feed to graze after a frost.

Cornstalks, Straw, and CRP hay are all low quality forages. With low hay production this year, these forages will be used to fill the void. It is important to undertand these forages pose some challenges. Problem #1- Palatability will be low, thus intake will also be low. Problem #2- Low-Quality will describe the feed analysis of these forages. So, if you have a lower amount of less nutrient dense feed being supplied by the forage, you have to supplement more. Save your good hay for after calving and use these "low quality forages" now or before calving. Be prepared to feed more supplement than fed with hay. They can certainly get us by, but they need some help.

Remember the effects of the drought remain, especially in your winter feedstuffs. If you test feeds, balance rations, and remain flexible in feeding strategies you can take the risk out of these feeds... if not, your just rolling the dice.

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