Every year beef producers work to get their cows through the winter in good condition so they can calve, produce milk and rebreed in a timely manner.

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) says the task may be more challenging this year as feed supplies are short.

BCRC Science Director, Reynold Bergen, says producers should figure out what they have available for feed, test it, then work with a nutritionist.

"You should work with a nutritionist to match your feed together so that the animal requirements are met, and at the same time that nutritionist can help you identify where there's gaps in terms of energy, or protein, or specific minerals or vitamins that may need to be supplemented and what stage of the winter, or spring, that supplementation's going to be most necessary."

Bergen says even though feed supplies are tight, the cheapest feed can cost you in the long run.

"Especially if that means you're going to end up with thin cows, because those thin cows are going to rebreed later next year, they're probably going to have more calving difficulties first, and if they rebreed later next year or don't rebreed at all, that's going to have definite implications on your bottom line the year after next."

He says, the nutritional management decisions made this year for the cow herd will have consequences for the next year and a half.

Different by-products or feed-grade products can be used for cattle feed, but Bergen reminds producers to know exactly what's in those products before feeding them.

"When you're feeding something unusual, you need to make sure that they're getting the nutrients they need, but not getting antinutritional things that may harm feed quality, or may pose a health risk to the animal."

For example, Bergen says excessive sulfur can be a bit of a challenge with canola.

For more information on winter feeding, BCRC recommends producers contact their local extension specialist, or nutritionist, and visit their website.

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