Ration Options for Beef Cows

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 Producers are always encouraged to have their beef cow feed programs set well in advance of the winter. This is even more important when planning through a challenging time, one that may require extra feed for extra animals due to volatile or weak markets. In times of high feed prices, planning can also help producers manage and potentially reduce overall winter feed costs.

Ration Options

This factsheet looks at five generic rations for a beef cow. These sample rations may help producers establish their feed needs and budgets early, so they can react to a drought or anticipated higher feed costs with a management plan.

All five rations were formulated using CowBytes software. This ration program, designed by Alberta Agriculture and Food, is available for $200. It can be ordered through Alberta Agriculture’s website, Ropin’ the Web (www.agric.gov.ab.ca).

The following assumptions were used in the ration calculations:

  • Beef cow: 1,300 lbs and 7 months pregnant
  • Weather: -10° Celsius at noon with no wind
  • Feed prices
    alfalfa/grass hay
    barley silage
    barley grain
    32% beef supp
    18% pellet
    1:1 mineral

Note: All feed prices on this list are for example purposes only. They are not to be used to establish or indicate market value of the feed.

Producers should consult with their nutritionist for further details. These rations are examples, and recommendations vary with management systems, cow type and feeds available. Test all feeds and balance your rations.

See the sample rations below.

Sample rations
Ration 1
35 lbsAlfalfa/grass hayCost/Cow$1.18/day
0.15 lbs1.1 Mineral$236.00/200 days
Ration 2
20 lbsAlfalfa/grass hayCost/Cow$0.95/day
15 lbsStraw$190.00/200 days
0.15 lbs1:1 Mineral
Ration 3
65 lbsBarley silageCost/Cow$1.22/day
7 lbsStraw$244.00/200 days
0.15 lbs1:1 Mineral
Ration 4
20 lbsBarley silageCost/Cow$1.14/day
17 lbsStraw$228.00/200 days
5 lbsBarley grain
1 lb32% Beef supp.
Ration 5
18 lbsStrawCost/Cow$1.34/day
10 lbsBarley grain$268.00/200 days
1.5 lbs32% Beef supp.
0.1 lbsLimestone
Feed Waste

Research has shown that feed waste can have a major effect on feed inventory requirements and the associated costs with feeding cows over the winter.

Many different feeder designs are available to reduce the amount of waste. Ring feeders or bunk feeders are effective when feeding either round bales or processing feed with a bale shredder.

Cattle can waste 12 to 15 per cent of the forage when a ring feeder is used. When processing hay or forage onto the snow or feeding silage on the snow, waste can be 25 per cent or higher. This factor can increase winter feed costs dramatically.

For more information, contact

Alberta Agriculture and Food
Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 310-farm (3276)

Revised by
Barry Yaremcio – Beef/Forage Specialist

Source: Agdex 420/52-2. Revised October 2007.

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Barry Yaremcio.
This document is maintained by Jennifer Rutter.
This information published to the web on September 5, 2002.
Last Reviewed/Revised on October 1, 2007.