Effect of Three Different Hay Feeding Methods on Cow Performance and Wintering Cost
North Dakota State University scientists conducted a 3-year study to evaluate the effect of three hay feeding methods on cow wintering costs. The three methods were:
- conventional method of rolling large round bales out on the ground;
- shredding large round bales on the ground with a bale processor; and
- feeding large round bales in a tapered-cone feeder.
A total of 360 crossbred cows in their third trimester of pregnancy were used over the 3-year period of the study. They were fed for an average of 59 days during the test period. Alfalfa grass hay was fed during the first two years, whereas oat hay was fed in the third year.
Data were used to prepare an economic analysis model with budgets for 100- and 300-cow reference herds. Compared with methods 1 and 2, feeding bales in a tapered-cone round bale feeder
- significantly increased cow weight gain;
- resulted in greater positive rib fat depth change;
- reduced hay consumption an average of 10.2%; and
- reduced hay waste in the two years of the study when alfalfa-grass hay was fed, but not in the year when oat hay was fed.
Over the 3-year period, using a tapered-cone round bale feeder reduced wintering cost by 21% for the 100-cow reference herd and 17.6% for the 300-cow reference herd compared to feeding with a bale processor. The round bale roll-out method was intermediate in cost (Landblom et al. 2005 NDSU Cattle and Range Research Report).