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Limitations of Grazing Stubble Fields

With forages in short supply and high priced; anything that can extend the grazing season and use home grown feeds will reduce winter feeding costs.

Straw bunches for grazing. Photo credit: Barry Yaremcio

Straw and chaff can have variable quality depending on the amount of grain and weed seeds thrown over by the combine. Wheat, rye, and triticale straw typically have the lowest protein at approximately 4% and energy at 40% Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN). Barley straw tends to be a bit better with 4 to 5 % protein and 42 to 45% TDN, and oats can be better quality with 4.5 to 5.5% protein and 44 to 47% TDN. Pea straw is one of the best when it comes to protein, usually 2 to 3% higher than the cereal straws but has the same energy content as barley or oat straw. Canola straw is typically not used for grazing, but is suitable. A 2 : 1 mineral in many cases does not supply sufficient amounts of calcium and magnesium. A 3 : 1 or 4 : 1 mineral may be required.

Low quality straw limits grazing due to high fibre content. It may be necessary to provide supplemental hay, silage or grain. A pregnant cow in mid pregnancy requires 55% TDN and 7% protein. If protein is not adequate, feed intake can be reduced because it can take longer for the feed to pass through the digestive system. A lack of energy will result in the cows mobilizing fat to meet the demand. A cow losing weight and becoming thin prior to winter increases maintenance energy requirements and will require more feed to keep warm.

There are many options to supplement extra energy and protein When comparing options, three items must be considered:

1) Is it cost effective?

2) Does the supplement meet the nutritional requirements of the animals?

3) Is it convenient to use?

There are many different products available to use as supplements. Some are free choice and others can be limit fed once every 3 days. Use what works for your situation.

For additional information on feeding cows with limited feed, contact Barry at 403-741-6032 or by email at


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