Jeff Pastoor, Senior Cattle Consultant, Land
O’Lakes Beef Feeds.
Feeding cattle with self-feeders or steer stuffers is a
popular option in the Upper Midwest. They are a very convenient way to feed
cattle, however day to day management will make a big difference in the
performance of cattle on the self-feeder.
In general, diets fed as a TMR in a feed bunk will give us better performance
and lower costs of gain than diets fed through a self feeder. In trials done by
the University of Minnesota, steers fed on a TMR had $23.90 more profit per head
than identical cattle fed on a self feeder. Closeout records from Land O’Lakes
would indicate a much larger benefit than this from TMR vs. self feeder.
However, because of equipment costs and the learning curve
involved with bunk management, self-feeders are probably the best choice for
feeding operations of less than 100 hd.
It is easier to learn how to manage a self-feeder than to
manage a fence line bunk. There are some very basic guidelines to follow when
let the self-feeder run empty, this will result in acidosis and will lead to
poor performance or death.
space should be 4-6 inches per hd.
space should be 1 space per 20 hd.
fines! Fines are the most common cause of feedlot bloat and they also lower
intakes. Use dry, whole, screened shell corn and minimize the handling of the
supplement pellets. Clean the trough daily and keep the trough setting
fiber helps cattle on a self feeder. It improves rumen health, feed intakes,
feed efficiency and daily gain. Control the intake to 1-2 lbs/hd/day. Hay,
corn stalks, grass, straw, bedding, etc will all work well as added fiber. It
is most important to feed added fiber if the cattle will be on the self feeder
for more than 90 days.
is important, feed, water and the laying area must be connected by concrete
and should be out of the wind.
cover is important for dairy breed steers; they have thin hides and less hair
coat than beef breeds and cannot grow well if their back is wet and cold.
is also crucial for dairy breed cattle. It is needed to maintain a natural
loft to the hair coat; better hair coat = better insulation = better feed
efficiency. Bedding should be controlled - chopped bedding applied daily is
the best. Bedding can also be an excellent source of roughage to the steers.
The infrequent use of long-length bedding results in more rumen fluctuation
and poorer F/G - but it is better than no bedding at all.
Remember…self-feeders are not:
- a reason
to not look at the cattle.
- a reason
to not manage bunks.
- a good
way to completely eliminate the need for roughage.
- an easy
way to make big money.