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Feeding Rich Alfalfa Hay to beef cattle


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#1 FarmerDave75

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Posted 09 December 2020 - 08:25 PM

I have purchased some second cut alfalfa hay, it is dry hay in 4x5' round bales.  It was really dry here in Southern Ontario this past summer so there is very little grass that grew back for second cut so its almost pure alfalfa.  My question is it okay to feed this to beef cattle for the winter or is there a high chance of bloat with it.  

 

What would you say the best/safest way to feed:

 

1. Straight Alfalfa Bales

 

2. Feed one first cut (all grass) bale followed by one alfalfa bale and rotate back and forth.  (I feed one bale once every 3 days)

 

3. If there is not too much waste I can put a grass bale and alfalfa in at the same time when I feed.  (Add 2 bales once every 5-6 days but assume more waste)

 

I guess if there is a risk of feeding it straight, option 3 would be the best but I would rather just feed the alfalfa hay only and save my grass hay for the horses but would like to hear others opinion on the risks if any.

 

Thanks,
Dave



#2 r82230

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Posted 09 December 2020 - 08:56 PM

I've never had bloat on alfalfa in the dry hay state, but YMMV.  With green fresh alfalfa, that's a different story, got to start them slow.  And there is also a bloat guard block available, I do believe. 

 

I feed hay that's 20%+ protein (2nd to 4th cuttings) to my beef cows every year.  Usually put one out with, some with lower protein hay (still 14%+ usually, 1st cutting).  What happens is they eat every bit of the higher protein, later cutting stuff first. Following day(s) they will eat the 1st cutting hay. 

 

So when you say 'rich' do you know what your hay tests out at?

 

The only way I can see where you could feed and not have them 'choose' what they are eating first, would be a mixing wagon, perhaps.  But I have almost no knowledge about those wagons.

 

Oops, welcome to HT, Farmer.

 

Larry


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#3 NebTrac

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Posted 09 December 2020 - 11:08 PM

I don't know how many your are feeding.  I just started feeding 4th cut, so protein is super high.  I would not give them free choice, I hand feed twice a day and have free choice prairie hay available at all times. 

 

 If you're feeding a lot of calves, I'd do some research and find out for your weight of calves how much you should be feeding. 

 

I don't think you'll have a problem with bloat, the runs more likely.

 

Troy



#4 swmnhay

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 12:49 AM

Tub grinding option?Grind every other bale good alfalfa with grass hay,cornstalks or some other roughage.



#5 r82230

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 08:15 AM

Forgot to add presently feeding some 350-450# calves this:

 

11-12# of my mix ground feed (corn/oats/soybean meal/pellet, over 17% protein) a day and they are on free choice 24%+ protein (mainly alfalfa balage) round bale.

 

Larry



#6 FarmerDave75

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 02:03 PM

Thanks guys for the advice and sharing your experience. Too clarify and answer a few questions, I am feeding 10 cows with calves that are 3 months old.  Not concerned what the calves are eating as they have a separate area where they can eat 1st cut hay and spend most of their time there.  The hay has not been test so I don't know protein levels.  Also just a small hobby farm so nothing fancy like grinders or special feed wagons.  I have a tractor and an outdoor rectangle hay feeder for round bales.  Feed a small amount of grain last year and straight first cut hay and cows were pretty thin by spring so I am hoping to keep some weight on them this winter with the second cut hay and not feed more grain than I have too.

 

Thanks,
Dave



#7 r82230

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 08:24 PM

Cost to test is around $25, but If you are putting up your own hay, might not be warranted. 

 

IMHO, you have a choice with making hay, strive for quality/quantity or wait for quantity only.  A lot of folks in my area, put up the ladder type hay.  I feed nothing but hay to my cows (with minerals/salt available).  Cows can get by with lower quality hay for certain, especially if you supplement with grain. I'd be buying grain, so I rather put up better hay. 

 

I have a neighbor that his best hay tested less than 7% protein, but he supplements with grain.  There's a lot of cows that only get hay out west I do believe.  So you have choices.  

 

What you could do is limit the cow exposure to the better hay, either limiting their time to eat some each day or unroll and toss some into their feeder each day, being you don't have a tub mixer.  Down fall with this idea, would be all cows would have to have access at same time or it would get pigged by a few.

 

When its the coldest, is when I feed more of the higher quality stuff, so maybe that could be an option. 

 

Larry


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#8 8350HiTech

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Posted 10 December 2020 - 09:58 PM

I also don’t have many cows and have had similar instances where it would theoretically be nice to have a vertical mixer but it just isn’t feasible for small amounts of cattle. Last year I was afraid that I was going to be over feeding my cows as I had a super nice tube of oats baleage for them. I started with a plan of feeding either every other bale oats then regular grass hay (or two and then two) but it didn’t take too long until I was down to one bale per week or less of the dry hay. I would consider your situation very similar and I would start off feeding every other and see how it goes. They’re probably going to consume the alfalfa much more quickly but that’s okay. They’ll clean up the straight grass too. If you don’t think they’re showing signs of their feed being to hot then move to two or three bales of alfalfa per one bale of grass and keep increasing it if you want until you find your sweet spot. It would be great if you could grind it into a consistent daily diet but a beef cow should be able to do just fine on inconsistent protein from day to day. Also, I feed no grain ever. The only reason I would do so would be to keep the cows familiar with coming when called. Like Larry, I don’t want to buy them grain so I’m trying to feed them well in other ways.

#9 CowboyRam

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Posted 11 December 2020 - 08:07 PM

I feed all Alfalfa to my cows with no problems.  I have also fed oat hay in the past with no issues as well.  I would love to have a haybuster, but that is not feasible at the moment, so I use my manure spreader to feed with.  I only feed what they can eat in one day.  Once they get used to being fed with the tractor it makes it easy to get them in.  Now every time they hear the tractor running, they come running.  



#10 siscofarms

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Posted 12 December 2020 - 09:44 AM

wouldnt worry about it being cows with calves . in fact you may see its a real good thing . good hay is cheap hay , cheap hay is expensive . just watch the rear end . if they get a little runny you could sneak in a grass bale now and then but i guess milk production will go up along with the weaning weight of them calves .



#11 swmnhay

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Posted 12 December 2020 - 11:00 AM

Feeding really good hay can cause problems fed free choice esp if they are not used to it.Could end up with a twisted gut,BTDT.Dumped a 3rd cut bale in bale feeder with some fat cattle thay had some rain damage but still very nice hay right before i left on vacation.Guy i had doing chores called next morning 2 dead and one down.Vet posted them,twisted guts.



#12 mlappin

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Posted 12 December 2020 - 08:53 PM

I've never had bloat on alfalfa in the dry hay state, but YMMV.  With green fresh alfalfa, that's a different story, got to start them slow.  And there is also a bloat guard block available, I do believe. 

 

I feed hay that's 20%+ protein (2nd to 4th cuttings) to my beef cows every year.  Usually put one out with, some with lower protein hay (still 14%+ usually, 1st cutting).  What happens is they eat every bit of the higher protein, later cutting stuff first. Following day(s) they will eat the 1st cutting hay. 

 

So when you say 'rich' do you know what your hay tests out at?

 

The only way I can see where you could feed and not have them 'choose' what they are eating first, would be a mixing wagon, perhaps.  But I have almost no knowledge about those wagons.

 

Oops, welcome to HT, Farmer.

 

Larry

I’ve ground some super rank mature grass silage bales with a super nice first cut alfalfa silage bale and they can’t sort it out, grain the dirty birds still can. 

Right now I’m grinding a 1st cut grass silage bale with some stalk bales that were wrapped three? years ago and about 40% corn silage. Sorting some of the stalks out but we went and got 20,000lbs of feed grade jam, next load I’ll empty the Jaylor, drop one of those old stalk bales in, pump in 400lbs or so of jam, mix and let it sit a day to soak in.



#13 r82230

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Posted 13 December 2020 - 09:22 AM

Right now I’m grinding a 1st cut grass silage bale with some stalk bales that were wrapped three? years ago and about 40% corn silage. Sorting some of the stalks out but we went and got 20,000lbs of feed grade jam, next load I’ll empty the Jaylor, drop one of those old stalk bales in, pump in 400lbs or so of jam, mix and let it sit a day to soak in.

 

You got me Marty, when I see feed grade 'jam' my first thought was 'strawberry or raspberry'.  :confused:  Enlighten me on what exactly is feed grade 'jam'?

 

Larry



#14 Edd in KY

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Posted 14 December 2020 - 04:12 PM

I always think of animals like kids, just not nearly as smart. If you sit a 6 year old child down at a table with a bowl of ice cream, a pile of candy and a plate of vegetables, would you expect the kid to eat equal amounts of each? Or,  devour the ice cream, then the candy, and totally ignore the veggies, but ask for more ice cream? 

 

With horses, we limit the amount  (and carefully ration)  grain, feed only a flake of Alfalfa, and free choice of grass hay.

 

It is sort of the same with fences and obstacles. If they can find a hole in a fence they will, or way to get hurt on an obstacle, they will.


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