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Feeding a Pregnant Cow this Winter

StettlerLocal.com September 15, 2021 contributed by Yaremcio Consulting, Ltd.


$760 to Feed a Pregnant Cow this Winter?


With current feed prices; it will be an expensive year to feed the cows over winter, with hay at eleven cents per pound, straw at five cents a pound, barley $8.50 a bushel, silage at $65 per ton and 32% supplement at $594 per tonne. For an expected feeding period of 160 days because of limited fall pasture and a cow consuming 40 pounds of hay a day (including waste), the cost of feed including mineral, salt and vitamin could be as high as $4.75 per day or $760 for the pregnant cow. The feeding period of 40 days during lactation is not addressed in this article.


A 1400-pound cow in mid pregnancy can eat approximately 35 pounds of mixed hay or 85 pounds of cereal silage per day. This does not include waste. If quality is good, this could result in the cow gaining up to one pound per day in warm weather. If the cow is in good condition and this feeding program continues, there could be calving difficulties because of excess fat in the birth canal.


When substituting in straw or slough hay for hay or silage, maintaining energy and protein in the ration to meet animal needs is critical. Do not attempt these changes without feed testing and balancing the ration with a program such as CowBytes. The process of testing feeds and balancing the ration is critical to prevent cows from dropping condition and possibly having calving and rebreeding problems next spring, if nutrient requirements are not met. Changes to the mineral and vitamin supplementation program will be required. Ask for help from a nutritionist if you are not sure of what to do.


In mid pregnancy, one option is to possibly to remove 15 pounds of good quality hay and replace it with 15 pounds of straw. The second option is to remove 35 pounds of silage and replace it with 15 pounds of straw. Daily feed cost for the hay–straw ration is reduced by $0.90 per head per day, and for the silage–straw ration cost is reduced cost by $0.38 per head per day. The cost of mineral and supplements is not included in these calculations.


In late pregnancy, protein and energy requirements increase due to the stage of pregnancy with increased growth of the calf and colder temperatures. The colder temperatures will cause the animal to consume more feed on a daily basis. A straight hay ration is fed at 37 pounds a day. Hay can be reduced to 29 pounds per head per day along with 8 pounds of straw. Silage is fed at 91 pounds per head per day. Silage feeding rate can be reduced to 73 pounds with straw included at 7.5 pounds per head per day. Reduced costs are $ 0.48 cents per day for the hay and straw ration, and $0.22 per head per day for the silage and straw ration.


Assuming a 70 day feeding period for mid pregnancy and a 90 day feeding period for late pregnancy, feed costs can be reduced by $106 for the hay straw rations and $46 for the silage straw rations.


The feeding rates provided are based on average nutritional values for the different feeds. To avoid problems, all feeds should be sent to an accredited laboratory for analysis before calculating the rations. Seek assistance in balancing rations if there are concerns with how to feed animals this winter.


Barry Yaremcio

Ruminant Nutritionist

Yaremcio Ag Consulting Ltd.

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