With lingering drought in many areas, the forage supply may be limited. Quality has also been an issue. Maurice Eastridge, professor and extension dairy specialist at Ohio State University, offers considerations for stretching forage supplies:
• Whole limited cottonseed is the best concentrate source to use as a forage extender. Limit whole cottonseed to 5 to 6 pounds/ day per cow because of its unsaturated fat content. High fiber concentrate feeds, such as distiller’s grains, brewers grains, wheat middlings, corn gluten feed, soybean hulls, citrus pulp, etc., can be used to replace some corn and limit the starch content in rations. Current prices must be compared for making economic feeding decisions.
• If corn silage is the sole forage, the lower limits on forage NDF should be no less than 21 percent, and adequate particle size of the forage becomes even more important. This is because corn silage has fewer long particles than haylage, and the corn grain is more rapidly degraded in the rumen than dry shelled corn.
• If more rapidly fermented starch sources are used (e.g., wheat, barley, high moisture corn, and steam-flaked corn) than dry corn, replace no more than 50 percent of the dry corn or increase the amount of fiber in the ration.
• A small amount of hay or straw can provide effective fiber to maintain rumen health with feeding low-forage diets.
• With low-forage diets, always add a buffer to the ration at about 0.8 percent of dry matter.