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Feeding Cattle Without the Feedlot


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For more: Typically cattle producers can have improved animal performance through controlled systems such as an open lot feedlot. Open lots provide for improved control of diet, health, and monitoring of activity of the animals. Feeding areas such as these also can have disadvantages such as solid manure accumulation, surface water contamination when runoff water is uncontrolled, such systems are labor and machine intensive, and can contribute herd health issues because of high stocking densities, dust, or mud. Forage based grazing can negate many of these issues and is arguably more sustainable and environmentally friendly. However intensive grazing strategies must be employed to obtain comparable productivity. Development of technology that allows for these benefits is needed. Cross fencing and rotational grazing practices would benefit from more flexible and less labor intensive ways of controlling the grazing area.

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Feeding Cattle Without the Feedlot

  1. 1. Feeding Without the FeedlotJason GrossUNL ExtensionBiological System Engineering
  2. 2. Feed Calves without the Feedlot• Reduce costs and infrastructure by not building pens,bunks, and waste treatment facilities.• Reduce costs by eliminating baling, hauling, grinding, andmanually spreading manure.• Reduce mortality and sickness by keeping the cattle out ofmuddy or dusty conditions.• Increase cattle numbers without expanding existingfeeding facilities.• Reduce environmental risk by having a grazing operationinstead of an AFO or CAFO by having the livestocknaturally spread their manure.
  3. 3. To Have All the Comforts of a Feedlot butWithout the Feedlot We Will Have To …• House the cows or calves using permanent or temporaryfencing.• Use modern cross-fencing materials (polywire, step-in posts,TumblewheelTM, A-Post, or Pivot Fence) can control calf forageintake.• Provide a more dust and mud free environment than an open lot.• Be able to leave residue for erosion control.• Achieve grazing efficiency in windrow grazing up to 90%.• Minimize labor costs.• Rely on UNL research illustrates the advantages of forage basedgrazing.
  4. 4. UNL Research Shows the Efficiency of Windrow Grazing
  5. 5. The Pivot Fence• Developed by UNL Extension to convert a center pivotinto a moveable cross-fence• Achieve the advantages of windrow grazing by only givingthe cattle a daily supply of forage to graze.• Move a quarter mile or longer fence in minutes by the pushof a button or with GPS and wireless control, the fence canbe moved by cell phone or laptop anywhere in the world.• Have a portable fence without manually picking up andmoving wire and posts.• Simple and easy to install and remove.• No alterations to the pivot (drilling or welding).• Can be used on all makes and models of pivot.• Works on frozen soils.
  6. 6. Pivot Fence Components• Truss Rod Hangers• Drive Pipe Clamps• Automatic Wire Tension System
  7. 7. Truss RodHangerStabilizes Wire Height InBetween Towers
  8. 8. Wire Clamp for Pivot Tower BracePipe with an Insulator
  9. 9. Automatic Wire Tension SystemAdjusts Automaticallyor Manually
  10. 10. Grazing Trials• Two trials in 2011, one fall oats and one cowson corn stalks.• Two trials in 2012, one fall oats and anotherwith feeder calves on corn stalks.
  11. 11. 2011 Fall Oats• Oats planted in irrigated wheat stubble on August8th(south half) and August 12th(north half)• South half yield – 2.76 ton/ac dry matter• Cost - $25.09 per ton dry matter• North half yield – 2.05 ton/ac dry matter• Cost - $40.67 per ton dry matter• Quality –October 2011 – CP 8.5%, TDN 70.4%January 2012 – CP 6.0%, TDN 59.5%
  12. 12. South Half• 328 feeder calves grazed for 53 days• Calves grazed oats and volunteer wheat as agreen crop or standing up.• Calves grazed 47% of crop• Cost - $53.74 per ton grazed of dry matter• Cost - $0.36 per head per day (land cost notincluded)• Forage intake 13.46 lb/ hd/ day• Fence moved every 3 days.
  13. 13. Standing Forage
  14. 14. North Half• 328 feeder calves grazed for 52 days• Forage was windrowed on November 22• Calves grazed 83% of the crop• Cost - $40.67 per ton grazed of dry matter• Cost - $0.39 per head per day (land cost notincluded)• Forage intake 15.91 lb / hd / day• Fence moved every 2 days
  15. 15. Manage Forage Intake and Residue
  16. 16. Manure is already spread!
  17. 17. 2012 Fall Oats• Planted on August 1st• Yield – 1.79 ton / ac• Producer did not windrow. Grazed standing up.• Grazing utilization averaged 67%• Waiting for production costs.• Moved fence every 2 days• Quality –October 2012 - CP 8.4%, TDN 75.5%January 2013 - CP 8.2%, TDN 73.5%
  18. 18. CalvesGrazingFall OatafterIrrigatedWheat
  19. 19. Corn Stalk Grazing 2011 & 2012• Pivot Fence was used to demonstrate theability of the cross fence to limit grain intake.• Limiting the daily intake to prevent founderand to stretch the downed grain to reduceprotein supplement.
  20. 20. Corn Stalk 2011• 90 cows on 130 acres of irrigated corn.• Start Dec 2ndand ended on March 6th.• Moved cross fence 10 times.• Maintained cows grazing grain up to March 6th.• With enough of a daily intake of grain thecows didn’t need protein supplement duringthis time.
  21. 21. Corn Stalk 2012• 750 head of 600 lb feeder steers.• Irrigated corn 130 acres with 40 bu/ac ofdowned corn.• Start November 27th• Pivot Fence cross fencing started out well butwhen the pivot moved into some extremelyrough ground, the producer gave up onmaintaining the fence in the first of January.• The fence proved its worth but showed itslimits on extremely rough ground.
  22. 22. What Did We Learn• We can successfully house cows or calves with portable fencing onforages.• If the forage is hayed properly and allowed to cure in the windrow, thefeed quality can remain though out the winter.• Forage loss usually was where the windrow touches the soil.Minimize the number of windrows by raking.• Give daily rations to minimize over consumption.• Intake improves with dry windrows.• Manure is naturally spread.• Introduce calves to grazing system in small groups to keep themsettled down.• Daily interaction from producer improves calf disposition andbehavior.
  23. 23. Question’s ?Jason GrossBiological Systems EngineeringUNL Extension(308) 865 –