Forage can provide most of the nutritional requirements of a beef herd during the fall and winter. The challenge becomes the management of supplement due to variations in forage quality and growth.
Nutritional value. To properly supplement livestock, each forage should be sampled and analyzed. Ohio State University extension forage testing fact sheet, ANR-2-98, describes the proper sampling techniques for various forages and explains the results.
Contact your local agriculture extension educator for a test probe and instructions for submitting the sample to a laboratory.
Forage quality may have a dramatic impact on dry-matter intake. The higher the neutral detergent fiber content of forage, the less forage an animal will be able to consume. Cattle will generally consume 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent of their body weight per day in forage neutral detergent fiber content.
Supplementation when forage intake is greater than 1.75 percent of body weight may decrease forage intake.
Protein supplements. Protein supplements can increase low-quality forage digestibility and intake while extending the grazing season. Limited amounts of high-protein supplements greater than 30 percent crude protein can be used with low-quality forages (less than 8 percent crude protein and 45 percent total digestible nutrients).
High-concentration protein supplements that are natural protein sources do not need to be fed every day. Simply feed twice as much every other day.
When forage is 8 percent to 10 percent crude protein content, a 20 percent crude protein supplement can be fed daily. Protein supplements containing non-protein nitrogen can be used, but only in limited amounts, and should be provided on a daily basis.
Cost. A simplified method of determining cost per unit of crude protein follows:
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