#1 Loss in veld quality
bleaching by the sun
accumulation of structural carbohydrates which
are less digestible
translocation of nutrients to root reserves in
preparation for the winter months, from which
next season re-growth is derived
CP levels fall from 8 – 11% during summer to
1 – 3% in winter;
TDN falls from about 80% to <50%
#2 Depletion in quantity of veld resource
continued grazing with no re-growth
there is no grazing for animals
#3 Increased risk of plant poisoning
poisonous forbs are first to appear in spring
or following a winter burn.
#4 Depletion of water supplies
Less water to drink
Water quality goes down – becomes
warm, stale and fetid
Cattle travel long distances to water
Frequency of watering goes down
Loss of live weights and body condition thus
reversing weight gains (LWG) made in
Delayed onset of puberty in heifers, thus
increasing age at first calving (AFC)
Cows take long to cycle again following
calving, resulting in reduced pregnancy rates
and long calving intervals (CI)
Reduced fertility in the breeding herd - If
cows lose up to 16% of their body weight,
they are unlikely to re-conceive during the
Lower birth and weaning weights for
calves resulting in low cow productivity
(i.e., weight of weaned calf per cow in the
Starvation and death of animals due to
nutritional imbalances e.g., pregnancy
Plant poisoning and deaths
Longer production period, thus higher cost
of keeping stock on the farm
Ultimately, loss of business profitability.
OPTIONS FOR WINTER SURVIVAL
1. Winter supplements
blocks, cubes, licks, meals and cakes (home-made or
2. Conserved forage
hay, silage, foggage, leaf meal
3. Crop residues
stover, straw, etc.
4. Multi-purpose forage trees
Leaucaena, Callyandra, Acacia, Sesbania, etc.
5. Grazing management
Deffered grazing, vlei grazing, firebreaks, etc.
Aim is not to fatten but to maintain (or reduce loss in)
liveweight and BCS, unless one is finishing for the
Ensure that bulky grazing is available throughout the year. It is
cheaper and feasible to supplement quality rather than
Seasonal rotational resting
the year is divided into three main grazing seasons: dry season,
early summer and late summer, and paddocks are rested for an
entire season in rotation.
Involves putting up a pasture in late summer so that the grass
can be utilized in the dry season (foggage).
Vlei areas are best utilized in winter compared to top land
grazing as they are marshy and may pose serious liver fluke
problems in summer.
Areas with failing water sources and those most susceptible
to veld fire should be utilized early.
Should be made early to save as much graze as possible.
‘Make hay while the sun shines’ (Proverb)
Quality depends on stage of harvesting, botanical
composition and level of field and storage losses
E.g., veld grass cut and conserved at the early
flowering stage may contain a good 6 –9% crude
protein content with 50% TDN.
Nutritive value (CP, TDN, ME) can be improved
through urea treatment or ammoniation for better
animal performance. The CP content can be
raised from 1-3% to 10-12% in treated hay.
Grass hay, grass-legume hay, pure legume hay
(e.g., velvet bean, lablab, lucerne, etc.)
Traditionally been used for winter survival of cattle
in the Highveld.
maize stover, wheat and barley straw, soyabean
Grazed in situ, maize stover is a low quality
roughage (about 3% CP and 5.9 MJ/kg air dry),
animal performance on stover being initially
enhanced by grain gleanings of about 100-
Ammoniation or urea treatment to improve
nutritive value and animal performance
Salt treatment for enhanced VFI
MULTIPURPOSE (FORAGE) TREES
Cut and carry
Dried leaf meal
Protein supplementation of cattle in winter can
convert body mass losses to gains and
increase calving rates by 4 – 5% and
weaning weights by 18 – 45kg/head.
Supplementary feeding should start as soon
as animals start losing weight (May/June)
Include blocks, cubes, licks and meals (home-
made or bought-in)
FORMS OF WINTER PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS
e.g., urea/molasses licks.
usually fed in drums with a rotating tyre.
2. Meals and cakes
are expensive to use as winter supplements for range animals.
Should be given on a daily basis in feed troughs.
Feed troughs tend to favour the strongest animals in the herd,
which may not be the best breeders and there is rapid
degradation of the land around them.
However, rubber troughs or half drums can be used so that
feeding venue can be changed daily.
should also be given on a daily basis.
they must be dribbled from an open sack off the end of a slowly
moving tractor. This allows even the weakest animal in the herd
a chance to access your generosity.
Cattle are very good at picking cubes from the ground and
therefore feeding venue can be changed daily.
FORMS OF WINTER PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS
most commonly used form of protein
Intake of protein in block form is controlled by
the hardness and salt content of the block.
These are fed about three times per week and
usually weigh 15kg or 30kg with 30 – 50% CP
The higher CP content blocks are more
economic because they cost considerably
less in transport and per unit of crude protein.
FORMS OF WINTER PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS
5. Maize grain, molasses and chicken litter
Can be used for supplementary feeding of cows or
over-wintering of growing stock,
molasses plus chicken litter are cost effective
sources of energy and protein respectively. But they
have to be mixed with chopped roughage or a maize
grain source for palatability.
However, combination of the non-protein nitrogen
and quickly degradable energy benefits the
efficiency of utilization of both.
A group of one-year-old steers gained an average of
320g/day in 122 winter-feeding days on chicken litter
at ART Farm (Winkfield 1996). However, this product
is not so palatable and may need to be mixed with
chopped roughage or grain and molasses to mask
the offensive smell.
Blanket supplementation of all stock is uneconomic. Animals
should be sorted into categories with different priorities and
requirements to reduce feed costs and increases profit margins
for the farm.
It usually makes more business sense to supplement breeding
stock. The most profitable response to protein supplementary
feeding is obtained from pregnant heifers, immature cows,
weaners, and pregnant mature cows in that order. Empty mature
cows may show no or little response to supplementation.
In the case of in-calf breeding cattle, feeding as early as is
economically possible is important. Start at very low levels,
gradually increasing until after calving down (October-November)
at which time feed can then be increased rapidly. The reasons for
this are two-fold:
it is necessary to ensure urea microbe build-up in the rumen and
two thirds of foetal growth occurs in last trimester of gestation (June
to September period). To supplement energy after the calf is born is
too late for next year’s calf crop. First aid management does not
work in this situation.
Feed the right amounts of
supplement to achieve specific
bring cows just to the critical LW or BCS
necessary for conception and no more
to achieve specific live weight gains in
Regular monitoring of performance.
REGULARITY OF FEEDING
Begin supplementation early (April-May),
before animals start to lose body condition
Feed on a regular basis, not on a stop-
Try to feed about the same time every day;
otherwise cattle will waste a tremendous
amount of valuable grazing time waiting
for you to turn up.
Ensure there is a ready, plenty, clean
source of water always.
The ability to maximise the potential of a winter
cattle management program is both a science
and an art; a fine blending of management tools,
of observation and foresight. Good luck with
Department of Animal Production and Technology
Chinhoyi University of Technology
Private Bag 7724 Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe
Tel. +263 773 9 16375
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