After you have forages tested, take an inventory of them and livestock to be sure you'll have sufficient feed.
Winter feed comprises about one-half of the total feed costs for a beef herd.
Thus, it's desirable to develop a feeding and management plan to carry the cow herd through the winter at the least cost.
You also might want to separate the herd into groups with similar nutrient and management requirements.
This will keep you from over- or under-feeding cattle and wasting feed dollars.
Testing forages also lets you discover what the most limiting nutrient is so you can develop the most economical supplementation program.
Another benefit of forage testing is that it helps you develop a feeding pattern to meet animals' nutritional needs based on their age and stage in the production cycle.
In the fall, for example, there's still some pasture left, and beef cattle nutrition needs are low so you can feed lower quality forage.
However, their needs dramatically escalate as calving time approaches; so four to six weeks before calving, go to the highest quality forage and continue until pasture quality and quantity can meet cows' nutrient needs and you can shift them over to pasture.
This is assuming that the cows were in good flesh in the fall.
One common misconception can have an adverse effect on your beef cattle operation bottom line, too.
It is that cattle will eat more low-quality forage if they need it. This simply isn't true. Here's why.
Cattle eat less low-quality (high fiber, mature) forage because it is slow to digest and slow to pass through the animal.
As a result the digestive system is always full and the animal won't eat more.
Conversely, beef cattle will eat more high-quality forage because they digest it faster and it moves through them more quickly.
You'll have a higher level of performance when cattle eat more.
Having forages tested will let you know how much cattle will eat, based on fiber content.
For more information on animal nutrition, contact the Boyle County Extension Service.
Naughty or nice
The young woman was telling Santa what she wanted for Christmas.
"I'd like a new sports car," she said, "and a new wardrobe, and plenty of new jewelry, and a new mink coat."
"Alright," Santa replied, "but I'll have to check to make sure you were a real good girl all year."
"In that case," the young woman said, "how about if I settle for a Timex?"
Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.