Weaning and breeding stock retention decisions are made throughout the summer and fall. Producers try to match feed supplies and additional feed purchases with the number of head they plan to feed during the winter.

When severe dry conditions occur, producers' time is best spent developing and assessing strategies to manage feed resources. This quick "calculator" estimates potential forage shortfalls or surpluses associated with various management options. The "Feed to Need Calculator" very simply estimates the number of head that can be wintered on existing forage supplies. Or conversely, how much extra forage is needed to maintain the breeding herd and/or retained calves.

Using the Calculator
The "Feed to Need Calculator" estimates forage shortfalls or surpluses for cattle feeding scenarios. It uses your information to generate the forages required in different feeding scenarios. The calculator does not balance rations.
Using the calculator requires an understanding of:

  • Nutritional characteristics of your feed has the feed been tested?
  • Nutritional requirements of the stock you expect to feed do your balanced rations match the cattle you expect to feed?
  • Reasonably accurate estimates of feed on hand good estimates of unit weights (e.g. bale weights) and moisture content are essential.
  • Reasonably accurate estimates of body weight of cattle you expect to feed - the calculator estimates forage needs based on a percentage of body weight. Under-estimating or over-estimating body weight will make your calculations less reliable.
  • The share forages will make up of your rations - the forage component (as a percentage of body weight) will decline as you substitute other feedstuffs in your rations.
  • Reasonable estimates of days on feed.

A Few Tips

  • Give yourself a buffer, or margin for error. Temperature and moisture conditions may vary, which impacts your forage needs over the winter and the number of days you expect to feed.
  • Do a "sensitivity analysis" chart the best and worst case scenarios. Recognizing potential up-sides and down-sides will give you management flexibility in the future.
  • Be honest, if not harsh, with your estimates!

Home Stretch
Matching your forage supplies to livestock needs by using the "Feed to Need Calculator" should free up your time to aggressively analyze your winter feeding options.

Find the calculator at: Feed to Need Calculator

On-line users please click the link to launch the calculator. You will be prompted to "Run" or "Save" the file. Save the file to your desktop for easy access, or to a location on your computer where you store management tools. Step through a few different scenarios until you are comfortable you can meet your feeding needs.

Please call the Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (310-3276)