PERRY, Ill. -- With hay prices high and supplies low, beef producers are doing what they can to stretch out what they have to avoid added expense.
They got some more ideas Wednesday night at the Orr Beef Research Center's annual field day and tour.
"We waste a lot of hay," University of Illinois Extension beef specialist Travis Meteer said.
Producers can take several steps to reduce hay loss including focusing on bale feeder design.
"All feeders aren't necessarily created equal," Meteer said. "There's some improved designs, and one of the better designs is more of a cone shape, or you can buy a cone insert for a hay ring. It keeps hay off the ground, and it makes cattle put their head into the hay ring to grab hay out which helps keep the hay in the feeder."
Limit feeding hay also can help stretch a short supply while continuing to meet the herd's nutritional needs.
"Instead of offering cows access to hay bales 24 hours a day, limiting it to roughly nine hours a day cuts back on waste significantly," Meteer said. "Our data says a cow can eat what she's going to eat in nine hours during the day."
Producers can put hay feeders in a lot, turn the cattle in for nine hours, then lock them out for the rest of the day.
"Everybody needs a place to eat while they're eating," Meteer said. "If you have a hay ring with 12 spaces in it, and you've got 20 cows, you need another hay ring, but the amount of hay you'll save is definitely worth it over the five or so month time of feeding hay."
Those suggestions can work for producers "no matter the herd size," Meteer said, and so can some of the ongoing research work at the farm.
"Research is no good unless it's applied at the production level," he said. "At the research center, we investigate some strategies, practices and technology producers can use to be more efficient, more sustainable and contribute to more profitable business in their cattle enterprise."
Speakers from the University of Illinois targeted research findings, current topics and situations producers face on the farm.
Center research evaluating the influence of dried distillers grains with solubles on bull development and reproductive traits. "We're always feeding these cattle a little differently to hone in on cost and achieve optimal performance," Meteer said.
"When grain prices are really high, it made more sense to feed coproducts even if you're a small producer, but by all means, DDGs or any distillers grain is here to stay and has been incorporated into lots of livestock diets in Illinois," he said. "Knowing we will continue to use it as a feed ingredient, it's important to continue to investigate how it impacts performance of the animal and fertility of the animal as well."