When profit margins get tight, you look for opportunities to cut costs.
Bred-heifer diets are one area that may offer some cost-saving benefits.
In particular, examine the forages in bred-heifer diets to see where you could potentially save money, says Jason Leonard, calf and heifer specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition.
Corn silage hybrids have evolved over the years and have generally gotten higher in quality to the point that they are too energy-dense to feed to bred heifers as their main forage source, he explains. This can create over-conditioned heifers with post-calving problems.
A simple way to fix this problem and save money is to feed a high-quality hay, haylage or small grain silage in place of the corn silage.
“Many farms already have these feedstuffs in abundant supplies or could have them with a slight tweak of planting and harvesting plans,” Leonard says.
These forages, when made correctly, can supply 100 percent of the energy and protein needs of the bred heifer without the use of purchased grains or proteins. If you are tight on forage supplies and buying grain or commodities is easier to manage, a limit-feeding approach also is an option.
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