Cow feed is fall forage grown as corn, soybean cover crops


 We have 4,250,000 mouths to feed in Missouri this winter. More or less, that’s all the cattle — cows and calves, beef and dairy — in the USDA Ag Census.

Missouri was No. 2 cattle state in the nation. Now, we rank third if estimators have it right.

We’ve dropped lots in dairy; but I’m not sure about beef. I see more big beef herds.

Beef prices gain as our quality improves. MU research helps boost profits on cattle by making more beef grade Prime. If farmers adopt latest management and genomic research, we’d make No. 1 in profits.

I’ve been in MU Extension News long enough to see shifts in herds in Missouri. It’s a major change.

I also see lagging adoption from MU Thompson Farm, Spickard. In 20 years, there’s been big advances in breeding practices. That changed beef nationally.

The Show-Me-Select program brings success. And, it’s not that difficult.

There remain some attitudes of “I learned cows from my grandpa and he was a good cow man.” But, Grandpa didn’t know science, as it wasn’t there when he had cows.

Now, my concern isn’t about breeding, but feeding. I listen to weekly MU Extension teleconferences with state and regional agronomists. In this wet year, they’ve seen losses from baling hay too damp. Also, wet weather brings more toxic-ergot seed heads. Those were harvested in hay.

In other words, there’s less good hay and more bad hay stored. We came into the year with empty hay sheds. Two or three drought years before this wet year depleted forage supplies.

I’m not sure anyone knows our forage supply now. The weather was spotty across Missouri with adjoining counties having different results.

A common comment from teleconferences: “Worst hay ever.”

If there is hay it may be low in nutrition. Rain leached protein and energy from mowed hay before baling. Also, it may be more toxic from fungal infections. Not good.

With prevented planting there may be less grain to feed cattle. Add that loss to a shortage of hay to cause concerns.

Lower grain production means higher feed costs.

I hope beef herd owners are looking forward to stock up on grain and forage before prices zoom up.  

There’s amazing news. In an unusual twist in flexibility the USDA changed the rules on using prevented-planting crop acres. First off, they allow corn and soybean crops as potential cover crops. Those covers are needed for erosion control on unplanted ground caused by excess rains and floods last spring.

Corn and bean cover crops can’t be used for grain. But, they can be used for forage. That means corn and bean plants provide grazing or harvesting of chopped forage or baled hay. They make amazing forage to sustain cattle. I hope crop farmers with cover-crop forage supply beef farmers. Can they get together?

It takes action right now. MU Extension has geared up to help work through several new options. Helpers include both livestock and crop specialists.

Most important, local USDA rule enforcers and local crop insurance agents must be asked, first. That’s before any start on plans. Done right, crop farmers profit from forage and still receive prevented-planting dollars.

The double deal will be vital for both crop and livestock farmers. Find out what applies locally. Local rules prevail.

Any practices used must be approved by an agriculturist. That can be an Extension agent or a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) at local companies. Then plans must go before the local USDA office.

The word I got repeatedly from state specialists was to “check first, locally.”

With all of that said, Mother Nature may change best of plans. Fall rains and cold temperatures affect forage growth. That may overrule bureaucrats.

Crop farmers will grow needed grain and forage. Cow owners must connect with them to get needed forages. It will take cooperation as never before.

Tell me what you see happening at


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