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As an Agriculture Extension Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension Service I have had an opportunity to be involved in just about every aspect of agriculture. From the 5,000 cow dairy to the types of trees to use in a home landscape I have had a chance to learn how the different parts of an agriculture systems work together. Seedless watermelons, drip irrigation, pecan orchard management, fruit crop development, dairy nutrient management, environmental issues confronting agriculture, producer tours, field days, research projects and more have been a part of my life for over 30 years as I lived and breathed agriculture. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in consulting internationally working in Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, and China. I have worked with missionaries and other groups dedicated to alleviating poverty among third world farmers. I lived in the Middle East in 2007-2008 working on a project for the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. In this project I was the Chief of Party and Team Leader for a $5.7 Million dollar effort to train Iraqi Extension agents and specialists in all aspects of agriculture.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Short of Hay?

The winter of 2009-10 is shaping up to be very challenging for Texas cow-calf producers. Limited rainfall this summer resulted in very limited amounts of hay for feeding this winter. It will be at least several months before spring arrives with the hope of good rains and spring green-up. Most producers are currently faced with the question of how to survive this winter on the limited amount of hay that is available. A couple of options may be corn and/or alfalfa. A pound of corn (whole or cracked) can replace approximately 2.25 lbs of average quality bermudagrass hay. This may be an economical substitution for hay when supplies are short and prices are high. Dr. Jason Banta, Beef Cattle Specialist, Overton, Texas, developed several diets using corn and/or alfalfa to help stretch forage supplies. It is recommended to maintain at least 50% of the ration as hay or a similar roughage source. This level should greatly reduce the risk of feeding high starch feeds and also provide adequate fill to reduce management problems due to hungry cattle. It is also important to gradually increase the amount of corn in the ration in order to prevent potential digestive problems. These examples do not guarantee performance of cattle. Actual performance may be higher or lower depending on the given situation and diets should be adjusted according to actual performance. Be sure to evaluate the body condition of the cattle on a regular basis during the feeding period. The costs associated with each diet should be carefully considered prior to making a management decision. These examples only represent a small fraction of the options available to producers; all options should be considered before deciding on the best strategy for a particular operation.
Possible Ingredients:
Average Quality Bermuda Hay: 10% CP; 50% TDN;
Alfalfa Hay: 13% CP; 56% TDN;
Cracked Corn: 9.8% CP; 90% TDN;
Cottonseed Meal: 46.1% CP; 75% TDN
Possible ration combinations for dry pregnant cows fed every day:
1. 15 lbs bermudagrass hay + 5 lbs cracked corn + .25 lbs of cottonseed meal
2. 15 lbs alfalfa (alfalfa has been cheaper in price even than Bermuda!) + 3 lbs cracked corn
Possible ration combinations after calving fed every day:
1. 16 lbs of bermudagrass hay + 5.5 lbs cracked corn + 1 lb cottonseed meal
2. 28 lbs of alfalfa hay

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