Winter feed is usually a beef producer’s biggest expense. Eldon Cole, MU Extension Livestock Specialist, makes these suggestions for improving winter feeding efficiency.

Test forage quality. The only way to know if livestock need supplemental feed in addition to the forages they are getting is to have a laboratory analysis of the hay and haylage being fed. Knowing the crude protein, total digestible nutrient content and neutral detergent fiber content of forages is critical for ration balancing.

Weigh hay bales. It is important to know how much bales weigh in order to feed the correct amount to livestock. Take into account the moisture content. Livestock rations are usually based on dry matter.

Recognize the amount of hay wasted at bale rings and when hay is unrolled. As much as 35 percent of hay may be wasted in bale rings that are open on the bottom. Using a cone-shaped, skirted bale ring or unrolling only what is needed for that day will help reduce hay feeding losses.

Sort livestock into groups with similar nutritional needs. Heifers, first-calf heifers and mature cows all have different nutritional needs. Feeding them in one group likely means some will get more feed than they need and some will get less. Feed the best hay to heifers and growing calves since they have the highest nutritional requirements. Your local MU Extension Livestock Specialist can help you with balancing rations.

For more information, contact Valerie Tate, Field Specialist in Agronomy for University of Missouri Extension in the Linn County office at or call 660-895-5123. University of Missouri Extension programs are open to all.

Valerie Tate is a field specialist in agronomy for University of Missouri