Prepare Now for Winter Feeding

Joshua Salley, Saenz, Melissa S.

It may seem crazy to be thinking about winter feeding needs in the middle of July but now is the time to begin preparing for it. Cattle producers in Louisiana have experienced a unique Spring/Summer thus far with ample amounts of rainfall. This is indeed very good news for pastures and hay fields; however, we have been very limited on the amount of hay that has been harvested. Many producers did not get their mowers in the fields until the first part of July when they usually would be on their second or even third cuttings. I have spoken to some hay producers in the SW portion of Louisiana who have not baled the first bale as of the middle of July due to either the fields being too wet or not being able to catch a window of opportunity in the weather.

Once the fields do dry out enough to cut, hay producers will be scrambling to harvest as much hay as possible. There is still a chance that this may not happen until later in the Summer or early Fall and by that time it may not be enough hay out there to have a surplus supply. Another problem is that the nutrient quality of the hay will not be adequate to meet the dietary needs of cattle to get them through the winter sufficiently since it will be harvested later in production. Producers should begin looking now at their options for supplemental feeding to see which method is right for their program. There are several options out there to choose from and there is not a “one size fits all” method. Some producers can see their cattle daily and may choose to feed a range cube or mixed ration multiple times per week. Other producers may not be able to see their cattle as often and those may choose to feed protein tubs or liquid feed which are self-limited.

Hay QualityNutrient ContentDeficit/Surplus
6% CP 45% TDN1.2 lb. CP8.9 lb. TDN0.3 lb. CP and 1.1 lb. TDN
10% CP50% TDN2 lb. CP11 lb. TDN0.5 lb. CP and 1 lb. TDN

A 1100-pound cow at maintenance Source: LSU AgCenter Master Cattlemen Program

  • Requires per day 10 lb. TDN and 1.5 lb. CP
  • She can consume 1.8% of her body weight in the low-quality hay, so 1100 lb. X 1.8% = 19.8 lb.
  • 19.8 lb. X 6% CP = 1.2 lb. CP and 19.8 lb. X 45% = 8.9 lb. TDN

As you can see from the chart above, a 6% CP hay will not provide the protein and total digestible nutrients that the average size mature cow will require. In this case, she will need to be provided a supplemental feed source to be able to meet her nutrient needs and to maintain her body condition. This can be done by supplementing with the feedstuffs mentioned above.Winter annuals such as ryegrass and clover may also be planted this Fall to help with the lack of hay and hay quality.

The only way to know for sure what your cattle will be consuming this winter is by testing your hay. This can be done very quickly and simply by contacting your local extension office. We have the tools and means to pull hay samples and they can be sent to the LSU AgCenter’s Forage Test Lab.Routine samples are $15/sample and will give you the nutritional information that you need to make the best decisions regarding your winter supplement purchases. To schedule a hay test, call the DeSoto Parish Extension office at 318/872-0533 or email

7/22/2021 4:03:10 PM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture