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How to stretch out hay supplies with beet pulp

The winter of 2008-2009 has been a cold one.

For many area livestock producers, the frigid weather has caused hay supplies to disappear faster than expected.

Animals exposed to cold weather require more energy to maintain their body reserves and to maintain their body temperatures. But, it's not just the cold.

Both temperature and wind affect the amount of cold stress the animal feels, thus wind chill must be taken into account.

As a rule of thumb, total digestible nutrient (TDN) requirements increase about 1 percent for each degree that the wind chill is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

For example, assume the average cow is eating 30 pounds of hay and the temperature drops to below zero, and with a wind, creates a wind chill of -10 F.

This common temperature change creates an increased energy demand of 30 percent (the difference between +20 degrees and -10 equals a 30 degree spread).

At this wind chill temperature, a cow's hay intake will increase by 30 percent, assuming free access to hay.

If she was eating 30 pounds before the temperature dropped, her intake will increase by nine pounds a day.

With day after day of sub-zero temperatures, these daily increases add up and may necessitate an alternative feedstuff to stretch your hay supply. 

Area sugarbeet processing plants in the region produce large volumes of byproducts, which are useful feed ingredients for beef cattle.

The most common byproducts fed in this region are wet beet pulp and beet tailings.

These products are high in moisture (75-80 percent), which limits dry matter intake, storage life, and the distance they can be transported economically.

Research conducted at North Dakota State University indicates beet pulp can be used effectively as a supplement for gestating or lactating cows, as well as in backgrounding and finishing rations.

Beet pulp is relatively low in crude protein (8 percent), but relatively high in TDN (72 percent).

As with any feedstuff, diets should be balanced to meet the protein and energy needs of the class of cattle that is being fed, so you may want to have you hay tested. (We can help with that too.)

Since these products are high moisture, dry matter intake becomes an issue and thus limits the amount that should be fed.

Check with your nutritionist to determine appropriate levels for your livestock based on your existing feed.

The decision to incorporate sugar beet byproducts into diets should be based on economics, local availability, and the feasibility of storage, handling and feeding.

For the wet byproducts, careful attention should be given to transportation costs and storage.

For greater detail on feeding sugarbeet byproducts, see the full article at, or contact one of the finer local Extension Service offices for your very own copy.

For more information on this topic, contact me at the Polk County Extension office in McIntosh at 800-450-2465, or at the Clearwater County Extension office on Wednesdays at 800-866-3125. 

If e-mail is your thing, contact me at

Source: Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University Beef Cattle Extension Specialist.