Tips to Stretch Short Hay Supplies

– Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, PhD, PAS, Beef Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Below are a few tips to consider stretching limited hay supplies. For additional information contact your local Extension agent. It is recommended to consult with your feed nutritionist or County ANR Agent before making drastic changes in your feeding program.

  1. Inventory hay – know how much hay you have available; weigh a few bales to get an average weight or estimate the weights based on available information from Extension publications.
  2. Minimize storage losses – keep hay off the ground on a surface that will allow water to drain away; keep bales covered or stored inside a barn; if bale grazing limit the number of bales placed in the field to provide 2-4 weeks of feeding to reduce weathering losses.
  3. Reduce feeding loss – consider minimizing feeding losses; using hay rings with skirts / metal on the bottom, tapered ring designs, chains to suspend bales, or cone inserts to keep hay inside the feeder has been proven to reduce hay feeding losses compared to hay rings with openings at the bottom; using an electrified temporary poly-wire placed down the center of unrolled hay will reduce losses from cows laying on the hay, trampling it into the mud, and defecating on the hay; feeding processed hay into a bunk or large industrial tire reduces waste compared to feeding processed hay on the ground.
  4. Cull – consider selling less productive females, open cows, and cows with structural/functional issues to reduce the number you must over winter; consider selling the bull as the market may provide the opportunity to sell a mature bull and replace him with a younger bull next spring.
  5. Limit time access to hay – research has shown dry cows in mid-gestation can be maintained on good quality hay when they have restricted access time to only 6-8 hours a day; the hay savings comes from less waste as feeding behavior is altered; all cows must be able to access hay at any given time; this is not recommended young or thin cows, lactating cows or growing animals.
  6. Substitute hay with grain – calories and protein can be provided from supplements; grain/commodity mixes can be used to replace hay; cows can be maintained on a low hay diet by using grain supplementation that balances the nutrient supply and animal requirements; consult a nutritionist before making extreme feeding changes.
  7. Deworm young animals – animals with an internal parasite burden will have reduced efficiency.
  8. Feed an ionophore – if grain supplementation will be used, consider adding an ionophore to increase the energy efficiency of the feed consumed. Consult your nutritionist to discuss inclusion rates and developing a supplement program. Previous work has shown that feeding 200 mg of monensin allowed cows to maintain body condition on 10-15% less hay.

Backgrounding Cattle in 2023

– Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

Know that not all cattle are

designed to be backgrounded.

With stocker cattle prices near or at record highs, there has never been a better time to evaluate pastures and grazing systems to optimize livestock value in a grazing system. Let’s discuss some management practices for backgrounding stocker calves on the grass in 2023.

Calf Quality

Looking to the future, there is a lot of opportunity in the cattle market for 2023. However, there are concerns about calf prices as producers start to buy stockers to graze this spring and summer.

Not all cattle are designed to be backgrounded. High-growth, high-performing calves are often best suited for delivery straight to the feedlot. The ideal calves for backgrounding are lean, green grazing machines that may not be ready for finishing and will benefit from the added frame and compensatory gain upon arrival to the feedlot in the fall.

In the marketplace, stocker buyers should match their management skills to the type of cattle they can afford and manage. There continues to be a premium for weaned and vaccinated calves and steers compared to bulls. For those producers that back the trailer up to the back 40 and turn cattle out with minimal management for the next six months, buying calves that are of lower risk is often the best bet.

Backgrounding #2 type cattle often has some economic upside in adding value to calves that might not be ready to perform in a feedlot setting. These cattle need more attention and care during the first two to four weeks of ownership to ensure they get on the right path concerning animal health and nutrition. There is a science to putting together groups of these types of calves. Aim for uniformity in flesh, ability, and frame.

Supplemental Nutrition

What about feeding grain in a backgrounding program? If cost-effective and aids in calf management, limiting feeding some grain can be a tool in the toolbox. Remember, every pound added to that animal is as valuable as ever. However, those added pounds should be lean gain rather than added fat cover. When evaluating supplement options, soyhull pellets or by-products could be a consideration.

Animal Health

The best backgrounding programs have some vaccination protocol, a solid mineral program, and a plan for fly control if needed. It is of utmost importance to control and mitigate respiratory disease and pinkeye, given current cattle prices. Work with your veterinarian to develop a Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR). That relationship is key to minimizing the impact of disease, especially in the wake of over-the-counter antimicrobials going under veterinary oversight in June. It doesn’t take many to fall behind or dead calves to erase the profit potential of a load in a backgrounding system.

Vitamin M[anagement]

Backgrounding stocker cattle can be a profitable enterprise if the impact of various factors can be neutralized or capitalized on. When determining stocking rate, knowing the carrying capacity of each pasture over time can help make cattle buying decisions. Rotational or management-intensive grazing can increase the carrying capacity and productivity of the forage in proper infrastructure is in place. Soil fertility is also part of a successful backgrounding program. Given the current economics of beef production, 2023 is a year to work on being more efficient in our production systems, as every pound of beef produced on a farm is of greater value than in years past. Happy Grazing.

Certified Livestock Manager (CLM) Webinar Series: A Summary of eBarns On-Farm Research

The OSU Extension Water Quality Team partnered with the ODA to kick off a bi-monthly, year-round webinar series. These webinars target topics related to Certified Livestock Managers (CLM). Each webinar will provide 1.5 credit hours for CLM continuing education credits as well as 1.5 credit hours for Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs). The first webinar is Monday, February, 6th from 10:am to 11:30 am. To register visit CLM Webinar Registration. Each webinar is recorded and available for later viewing. If you have any questions regarding this webinar series, please contact the OSU Water Quality Team via email at

Youth Small Ruminant Webinar Series

Do you have a youth or 4-Her that is interested in raising sheep and goats? Then this is the webinar series for them. Professionals in animal science will cover nutrition, health, handling, and welfare.

The webinars are from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm on the following dates:
Thursday, February 2nd
Wednesday, February 8th
Thursday, February 23rd

The zoom links are below:
February 2nd:

February 8th:

February 23rd:

Forage Quality Targets Based on Animal Class

By:  Mark Sulc and Bill Weiss

The optimal time for making a first cutting of forages is fast approaching. But what is the optimal timing to take the first cutting (or any cutting for that matter)? Many will answer by saying it is when you have time and there is a good weather window to get the forage cut and put up! Yes indeed, that is a valid answer. Both of those factors are important and can’t be ignored. However, we know that forage quality declines as the crop moves into flowering stages. The first cutting is usually the highest yielding cutting, so we should try to aim for good quality for as much of it as possible! Continue reading

Paid Survey Opportunity for Livestock Producers

Why take the survey?
Ticks and tick-borne diseases are a growing problem for both humans and animals in Ohio. The Ohio State University is interested in learning about your knowledge and experience related to ticks as a livestock producer through completion of a survey. Results of this survey will be used to develop customized training and educational materials about ticks for the livestock production community. Those who complete the survey will be eligible for a monetary compensation of $5.00 in the form of a gift card to the business of your choosing.

Who can take the survey?
Only livestock producers that reside in Ohio and are over the age of 18 are eligible to participate. Continue reading

Feed Your Cows and Your Forage

By:  Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

Beef Cattle

The highest energy demand of the cow arrives approximately 60 days post calving.

Spring has arrived, a successful Ohio Beef Expo is in the rear view, and for many Ohio beef producers, there are calves on the ground. This is a critical time in the beef and forage production cycle for many producers, especially those with spring calving herds. Continue reading

Forage Planting – How to Do It Well

By:  Mark Sulc and Jason Hartschuh, CCA

The window of opportunity for spring forage seedings has been very tight the past three years. Are you ready to roll?

Early spring provides one of the two preferred times to seed perennial cool-season forages, the other being late summer. The outlook for this spring is for probabilities of above average precipitation in April and May. Planting opportunities will likely be few and short. An accompanying article on preparing now for planting along with the following 10 steps to follow on the day you plant will help improve chances for successful forage establishment. Continue reading