Cattle Consuming Cotton

first_img“With the market situation and low calf prices, we’re looking for ways to cut ourproduction costs,” said Robert Stewart, an animal scientist with the University ofGeorgia Extension Service. “It’s good feed for them,” he said. “And it comes in at a time when the pastures aregoing out and before we have winter grazing. So the timing is excellent.” “There are some economic benefits to using these crop residues,” he said. “Theprimary benefit is to lower production costs by using feeds that otherwise may not beavailable.” If a farmer gets 30 days’ grazing (in a harvested cotton field), Stewart said, he mayrealize $20, and maybe as much as $30, savings per cow. “Once the cotton is picked, there is quite a bit of residue out there,” he said. “The lintand cottonseed that’s left, as well as a lot of the grass around the field edges, makepretty good cattle feed for this time of year.” Stewart tells farmers to use common sense when putting cows into cotton fields. Thecows need access to a free-choice mineral block, he said. And to know when they’veeaten all the good leftovers, just put a round bale of hay in the field. Many Georgia cattle farmers are choosing to keep their cows until they will bring moremoney at the market. Keeping cows costs about 50 cents to 70 cents per day for each. “One of the practices we recommend,” he said, “is to take advantage of crop residues.”Cotton fields, in particular, provide low-cost feed for beef cattle. Field residue provides about the same nutrition as low- to medium-quality hay, Stewartsaid. So it does more than just fill their stomachs. It provides enough nutrition for evenpregnant cows expected to calve later this winter. Beef prices are just coming out of an 18-year low, Stewart said. Because of that,farmers must manage costs carefully to keep making a profit. That includes usingalternative feed sources. Stewart tells cattle farmers to make sure the cotton field is fenced to keep cows wherethey belong. The cows also need a good supply of fresh water, he said. One acre of residue provides enough feed for one cow to graze for two to four weeks. Wilcox County farmer Don Wood put his cows into harvested cotton fields around themiddle of December. They aren’t calico cows, and it’s not cotton candy. But many Georgia cattle are grazingcotton fields, quietly munching leftovers. “When they eat up the hay,” he said, “it’s time to move them into another field.”last_img read more