December 07, 2015

((Dr. Dan) Hi there and welcome to DocTalk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson. I’m sure glad you joined us. We’re gonna have a great show today. A friend and colleague of mine, Dr. KC Olson is gonna join me. We’re gonna talk about feeding cows through the wintertime. Stay tuned.

(Dr. Dan) Hi there and welcome to DocTalk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here from the College of Veterinary Medicine. I’m joined today by Dr. KC Olson who is a Ruminant Nutritionist over in Animal Science and Industries Department and he’s a professor here at Kansas State University and thanks for coming. (Male) Oh, you bet, Dan. Always a pleasure. (Dr. Dan) It’s great to have you on the show. It’s always a topic that’s, you know, something that we’re interested in and something that really hits the bottom-line of the producers and today, with the drought and different things, there’s probably nothing much more important to a lot of cattlemen then how we’re gonna get these cows fed through the winter. (Male) I’d agree. I mean even in the best of winters, the time between the first of the year and roughly the first of May is where we spend ninety percent of our nutrition dollar and in this year, going into winter where we’re short with forage following a drought that many have called the worse drought in five hundred years here in the Flint Hills, we’re up against the wall. (Dr. Dan) Well I’ve been out driving the countryside and just seeing the, you know, some of these pastures look like the top of this countertop and you just wonder, How are we gonna, you know, get through this? What are some of the things that go through your mind? (Male) Well the first thing I think of when I see one of those pool table pastures is that most of the producers unfortunately, are thinking about stocking grazable forages for a six to seven month grazing season only and then they’re relying on harvested forages to get them through the winter. It’s a fact, folks, that those harvested forages carry a significant price tag and it’s very difficult to get a high input, low capitol return kind of business like a cow-calf enterprise. The cash flow efficiently when harvested forages have to be relied on for half of the year. (Dr. Dan) So if you’re buying it and hauling it in, really increases our cost. (Male) Yeah. It’s sort of like beef cow welfare. You know that cow was designed to harvest her own feed. She’s designed to graze and when we take her out of that grazing environment, we can find her for a period of time. We set ourselves up for a pretty big feed bill. (Dr. Dan) Yeah. When we talk about it in welfare, we’re talking about the ability to exhibit normal behavior. (Male) Wellthat’s a good way to put it. I never thought of it that way, but that makes a lot of sense, Doc. (Dr. Dan) So what are, you know, when we’re heading into this wintertime, what are some of the things give me the first thing that pops into your mind that you’re gonna look at in operation to design the program. (Male) Do you mind if we talk about this year specifically? (Dr. Dan) No. (Male) We are proudly and we’re short of forage. (Dr. Dan) I’d be glad to. We’re gonna have to go to the break here in a little bit, but how will we get started to go ahead into the break? What are we gonna come back with? (Male) When we come back, folks, I’d like to talk to you about how we’ve managed this drought, how we’re gonna manage our winter feeding scenario at the K-State cow-calf unit. (Dr. Dan) Well again, great to have you on the show. We’re gonna discuss feeding the cows here in wintertime. We’re gonna talk about how Dr. Olson and his crew do it and handle it and there’s what you said, the wrong way and the right way or the expensive way and the affordable way? (Male) That’s right. (Dr. Dan) Appreciate you all joining us on the show. We’ll be right back after the break.(Dr. Dan) Hi there and welcome to DocTalk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson joined by Dr. KC Olson and we’re both from Kansas State University and we’re talking about drought management or winter feed management and yawl have a program that you use here when you manage the cow herd outside of Manhattan. (Male) That’s a fact. We have a cow herd that’s for teaching research and in order to justify the existence of that cow herd, it has to cash flow and we’re very cognizant of the money that we put into that cow herd every year and we’re a little bit peculiar in as much as run to about eighty percent rented land, means we have to put high emphasis on land owner relations and we have to take good care of those pastures that we lease. (Dr. Dan) You bet. (Male) Now we have a written drought management plan that we abide by just like the Ten Commandments. It’s based on accumulated rainfall at several critical calendar dates during the year. It’s also based on forage growth on those critical calendar dates. Now when we don’t meet either one of those targets for a given date, we don’t have enough rain, we don’t have enough forage. We know that we have to start adjusting our stocking rate downward. Now the whole goal of doing this, folks, is to make sure that we have enough winter grass to get us through until grain up in the spring. Now we’ve had to make some significant cuts in stocking rate over the last four months. Some of the things that we did, we weaned early, about August fifteenth. We got rid of some yearling heifers to bring our stocking rate down and then we started to cut into that mature cow herd a little bit. Our inventory’s down by about sixty mature cows as a result of this drought, but having that written plan and having a marketing plan attached to each one of those stocking rate reductions, we got through it in pretty decent financial shape and we’re left with enough grass now to accommodate our winter feeding program. (Dr. Dan) That’s awesome stuff. So basically throughout the year, you’re taking moisture analysis of how much moisture’s hitting these pastures, what that’s gonna contribute to growth within the pastures and then from there, I think the strategy thing is something that really hit home with me, you know, the weaning early, looking at the mature cows and making some you can’t just keep borrowing. (Male) No, you can’t and the one person or the one entity you can’t borrow from is Mother Nature. If you misuse your natural resources, folks, it’s gonna bite you. That’s a simple fact of resource management. (Dr. Dan) We have to tell that to some of our legislatures. (Male) Oh, where are you going with this, Doc? (Dr. Dan) Anyways, you know, when we you know some of the things that what happens when we get behind the eight ball? I mean maybe something that’ll take us into the next break, but, you know, sometimes we don’t want to sell the cows and we don’t have the grass. (Male) The only option really at that point for reduction of grazing pressure is destocking and feeding and, folks, that’s probably the most expensive drought management mitigation strategy that there is, but the one thing it will do is buy you time to kind of think through the situation and discuss your options. Many folks for example, right now are using silage for the very first time because failed corn crops, failed sorghum crops are finding their way into silage pits right now. (Dr. Dan) Cool. After the break, we’re gonna discuss more about winter feeding management with Dr. Olson.

(Dr. Dan) Welcome back to DocTalk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson joined by Dr. KC Olson and Dr. Olson is a Ruminant Nutritionist over in the Department of Animal Science here at Kansas State University and he’s a professor, but one of the things that you do that hit home with me in the previous segment is that you not only manage our teaching and research cow herd, commercial cow herd, but you have to manage it as if you were an outside operation. I mean you’re balancing a budget and paying the bills. (Male) That’s true. I mean it’s very difficult to justify to a tax payer that we get to have a cow herd just to play with and enjoy, k, it’s our responsibility to make that cow herd profitable. (Dr. Dan) You bet and I think that’s what makes your research so relevant and different from most (Male) Oh, that’s flattering. (Dr. Dan) and it’s awesome and, so let’s talk about how you go about feeding these cows through the winter, cow supplementation and things of that nature. (Male) Oh, as I’ve said before, our winter feeding program is always based on dormant native rains here in the Flint Hills of Kansas. In most years, not including this one, forage is typically very abundant, but of very low quality. Just as an example, TTN value is usually in the low forties and protein value is usually below five percent crude protein. Now the beef cow is our primary marketing vehicle in the United States for low quality forages. Just because forage quality is bad, doesn’t mean that we can’t use it. (Dr. Dan) Right. (Male) Research that was done when I was a graduate student here at K-State and even before that, looked at, you know, can we supply nutrients in concentrated small amounts to the ruminant that will enable a beef cow to use that low quality forage effectively. My (?), Dr. Bob Cochran who is one of the greatest Ruminant Nutritionists of all time (Dr. Dan) You got that right. (Male) he figured out through a wonderful series of studies that if we can deliver to a beef cow an average of about one pound of crude protein per day, that we can triple her intake of that low quality forage and we can double its energetic value and it’s really a trick of Rumania physiology, k, the rumen is short on nitrogen, we supply a little bit of nitrogen and that enables the Rumania microbes to tear down that forage and make a good diet out of it. (Dr. Dan) So you’re putting the bugs to work. You’re gonna use what the good Lord in Detroit designed these animals to do. (Male) And coincidentally, folks, it happens to be a very cost effective winter nutrition program. We’re getting the most out of our lease pastures. We are converting a forage resource of modest utility into something that’s good enough to actually accrue body condition on a beef cow through the winter. (Dr. Dan) And the most important thing is it allows us to stay in business. (Male) It does. (Dr. Dan) We start thinking about the cost saving. What are some of the higher end supplement programs running some people? (Male) Well there are a lot of supplements out there that carry a very high price tag per unit of protein purchased. A lot of self-fed supplements would fit into this category. When we return form the break, Dan, I think we can maybe talk about delivery strategies for supplemental protein, ways to make that even less expensive for a commercial operator. (Dr. Dan) Cool. Thanks for taking us to break and we’ll see you right after it.

(Dr. Dan) Welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. KC Olson and we’re talking about winter cow and nutrition programs and KC, you want to talk to us about supplementation and strategy right? (Male) Yes. (Dr. Dan) K. (Male) Now in the previous segment, I mentioned that our magic formula here in the Flint Hills is to deliver an average of about one pound of crude protein to a cow per day during the winter and that enables her to effectively use our low quality native forage. There are some tricks to make that even more effective. First off, the rumen does not require daily delivery of protein to be fully functional. We’ve discovered over time, again, through pervious research here at Kansas State that we can deliver protein on an alternate day basis on a three day per week basis or even a two day per week basis as long as we hit an average of one pound of protein per day and when you talk about cutting the number of trips down to the pasture to feed cows by half, you’re really talking about significant savings in terms of equipment wear and tear, fuel, and man hours. (Dr. Dan) So which ones of these is probably the most common supplementation delivery time? (Male) Well what we like at the cow-calf unit at Kansas State is a delivery interval of between Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or Monday and Thursday, depending on the group of cows and depending on their requirements and also depending a little bit on the nature of the supplement. Now that protein source that you choose, folks, should be (?), Rumania degradable. There are two types of protein really that we feed to beef cows. One form is Rumania degradable. The other is degradable in the small intestine. (Dr. Dan) Bypass. (Male) It’s important bypass. (Dr. Dan) Yep. (Male) It’s important to choose a source that has a rich component of Rumania degradability. Now in this particular feed market where all protein sources are very expensive, I mean, when producers are out there merchandising their ingredients, when they’re considering a purchase, I encourage them to put those potential purchases on dry matter basis, to remove water from the equation and also to figure out then on a dry matter basis, what your purchase price is per pound of protein in that ton of feed or that truck load of feed. That is your path to least costing your protein supplement. (Dr. Dan) Well I think it’s some of the best information. One of the most relevant shows. We talked about nitrates this year and that, but, you know, we still have to feed these cows. (Male) That we do. The nice thing about grazing through the winter, folks, on a native forage source of a perennial forage source is that nitrates are generally not a worry. Now for those of you out there that might be considering using a corn derivative as a winter forage source, be aware of those nitrates and be aware of prosaic acid, test your forages, folks. Don’t make a mistake that will cause you regret. (Dr. Dan) Thank you for being on the show. (Male) You’re welcome, Dan. It’s always a pleasure. (Dr. Dan) Dr. KC Olson, Dr. Dan Thomson and thank you for watching DocTalk. Remember we always recommend that you work with your local veterinarian and your local nutritionist and if you want to learn more about what we do at ┬áKansas Stat University or at the College of Veterinary Medicine, you can find us on the web at I’m Dr. Dan Thomson from DocTalk. We ┬ásure enjoyed you watching the show today and I’ll see you down the road.

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