Cattlemen across the Corn Belt wonder if they’ll have enough forage to get through the winter. A series of farmer meetings in Missouri explores how to deal with that shortage. One of the meetings, at a University of Missouri beef farm near Columbia on Thursday evening, was hosted by Justin Sexton, a beef nutrition specialist for the University’s extension service.
“I’ve had many producers say ‘I don’t know how much forage it takes to carry a cow nine months,’ and so we’re looking at methods to minimize waste, improve digestibility, and just get more out of the forages we do have,” Sexton told Brownfield Ag News, following demonstrations on the farm.
In one of the demonstrations, Sexton adds hydrated lime, referred to as calcium hydroxide, to cornstalks, breaking down cellulose and releasing nutrients stored in them.
“That allows us to improve digestibility somewhere between eight and 15 percent,” said Sexton. “We’re not adding any protein to the system, but we are improving the energy value of that forage.”
Also, poor-quality hay can be sealed under plastic tarp and treated with anhydrous ammonia gas to double protein content and increase its energy content by 15 percent, according to Sexton. That particular practice requires several safety steps to mitigate personal injury from exposure to ammonia, as well as knowledge about working with anhydrous ammonia.
“This is something that they can take advantage of, storing their hay undercover, minimizing waste, while improving its utilization.”