The primary forage options available to cattle producers in Alberta are silage, hay, and greenfeed. In addition, hydroponics and Loop are emerging as new options for cattle producers.
Silage is a fermented feed that is made from crops such as corn, barley, and oats. It is an excellent source of energy and protein for cattle. Silage has a high moisture content, which makes it easier to digest than dry hay. It is also more palatable than hay and can be stored for longer periods. Silage is an ideal feed option for cattle during the winter months when fresh forage is not available.
Hay is a dried forage that is made from grasses such as timothy, brome, and alfalfa. It is an excellent source of fiber and protein for cattle. Hay can be stored for long periods and is an ideal feed option for cattle during the summer months when fresh forage is not available.
Greenfeed is a fresh forage that is made from crops such as barley, oats, and peas. It is an excellent source of energy and protein for cattle. Greenfeed has a high moisture content, which makes it easier to digest than dry hay. It is also more palatable than hay and can be stored for short periods.
Hydroponics is an emerging technology that allows producers to grow fresh forage indoors using nutrient-rich water instead of soil. Hydroponic systems can produce high-quality forage year-round, regardless of weather conditions. Hydroponic systems are also more efficient than traditional farming methods, requiring less water and fertilizer.
Loop is another option that allows producers to recycle waste products into animal feed. Loop is environmentally friendly and can help reduce waste while providing a nutritious feed source for cattle. It is labour intensive and time consuming.
Each of these feeding options has its own nutritional benefits and drawbacks. Silage provides high energy and protein content but requires specialized equipment to produce. Hay provides fiber and protein but can be expensive to produce. Greenfeed provides energy and protein but has a short shelf life.
Hydroponics provides fresh, nutrient-rich forage year-round but requires significant upfront investment costs. Loop provides an environmentally friendly way to recycle waste products into animal feed but requires time to process and is labor intensive.
In conclusion, there are several feeding options available to cattle producers, each with its own nutritional benefits and drawbacks. Producers should carefully consider their options based on their specific needs and resources.