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Feedlot Operators:

In the last article we discussed the importance of talking about feed intakes and deliveries on a dry matter basis because cattle eat dry matter. This month, we’d like to dive more into bunk management. First – let’s talk about slick bunk management, and what that even means. Research shows there are benefits to this bunk management style, when done correctly, however – it’s not a typical practice for most of our feeders, because of the labor involved. Slick bunk management is a common practice among larger feedlots and includes twice per day feeding at say 7am and 3 pm. Feed delivery volume is split 60:40 with the heavier volume at the PM feeding to account for the extra time gap. A bunk call gets made two hours before the AM feeding (around 5 AM in this case) and an additional bunk check gets done at 1 PM to help with accuracy of the next morning call. The goal is to have crumbs (bunk score ½) two hours prior to the next feeding. With the goal of a slick bunk at both feedings.

In the early 2000’s SDSU did research comparing performance on 1x/ day feeding at either 7 AM or 3 PM. Performance was the best when the feeding occurred in the afternoon. In this system it was easy to get eyes on the bunk both two and four hours prior to the feeding to fine tune dry matter deliveries. We’re not suggesting any of you start feeding twice per day or switch to afternoon feeding, because it’s always best to do what works in your system. In a 2x/day feeding scenario, in most cases the yards have a designated feeding crew. We realize your feeding crew is also most likely your manure crew, processing crew, as well as fieldwork crew. Our point is, if you’re feeding 1x/day, to still have success managing intake, it’s important to make bunk calls 2 hours prior to feeding so you know when the bunk has crumbs and when it goes slick. If that’s not feasible, then we suggest challenging each pen with crumbs (bunk score ½) one day per week. When delivery volume leaves crumbs at feeding time a slight backup on dry matter occurs and essentially leads to a slick bunk. Crumbs at feeding time 1-2x/week with a slick bunk the rest of the time may be as close as some get to successfully managing intake with a 1x/day, AM feeding system. By not knowing when the bunk is slick, you risk limiting intake, feed conversion and daily gain. Research shows up to $30/hd loss when not managing intake successfully. And that was with $3 corn and cattle at $65. Today’s losses would be much greater!

Another thought to consider…. If you trust science in your corn field, trust it in your feedlot as well. Ask us about Optaflexx and how it can return $25 on every finished steer or heifer you plan to load in the next 35 days. We look forward to visiting with you soon!

Your FCS Beef Team:
Katia Sytsma
Al Clough
Jared Terpstra