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    Controlling feed loss and spoilage important for beef cattle

    ISU Extension and Outreach
    ISU Extension and Outreach reliable information about agriculture, 4H programs, food and nutrition, and family sciences. ISU Extension and Outreach has an office in Muscatine.

    Muscatine Living

    Preventing feed loss helps keep cattle operations profitable.

    By Denise Schwab–Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

    AMES, Iowa — Feed spoilage and waste obviously cost money, but they may have bigger impacts on cattle health as well. Denise Schwab, beef specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, offers these reminders of feed loss types, causes and effects, and how to address possible challenges.

    Storage and feeding losses

    Hay storage losses for big round bales stored on the ground and uncovered range from 5-61%, while bales stored on a well-drained base and covered with plastic or a tarp were only 2-17% (UW Saxe, 2007).

    Feeder style also impacts losses. A Michigan study showed that ring feeders with an elevated center cone resulted in 3.5% feeding loss, while stationary cradle feeders had 14.6% waste. However, feeding on the ground without any feeder typically ranges from 20-30% loss.

    Holmes and Muck from Wisconsin compared various losses in silage, considering filling, seepage, gas, surface and feedout losses. Oxygen limiting towers and silage bags showed the lowest losses in the 6-13% or 9-17% ranges. Uncovered stacks or bunkers were the highest with losses in the 34-58% and 24-43% ranges, with both having the highest losses from gas and surface.

    Also noted, feedout loss is 3-5% with good management on concrete floors, but 8-20% with earthen floor and good face management. With less than good management, as much as an additional 7% loss can be expected.

    Both storage and feeding losses add to increased feed costs for the cow herd. For a cow provided 40 pounds of hay at $120 per ton, with 10% waste, that equals $7.20 per cow per month in feed loss. For $45 per ton silage, 10% feed loss at 50 pounds silage consumption is $3.37 per cow per month in feed loss.

    Waste in mud

    The effect of mud on energy requirements of the cow is obvious, but muddy conditions also have a direct impact on feed loss from both the feed storage area and the animal feeding area.

    Mud often includes manure, leading to a vector for diseases such as Clostridium perfringens (Clostridium). Contamination will lead to immediate feed refusal. Soiled feed also creates a concern for curious calves.

    Storage location is important for multiple reasons: ease of storing, ease of feeding, and reducing mud and soil contamination. The best silage and hay storage option is on concrete to reduce problems at harvest as well as at feedout.

    When concrete pads are not an option, choose a site that is high and dry, and consider adding rock or limestone to make a more solid base that also has good drainage. Avoid low areas that result in muddy messes when feeding out the silage or forage.

    Feed in contact with wet or muddy conditions deteriorates, resulting in loss of feed quality and quantity. Mud also increases the ash content of the forage, and particularly the iron content, of soil-contaminated feed.

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