Feeding cattle during the spring calving season is challenging.

Mud is aggravating and animal losses due to its persistence this year were staggering. A mildly wet winter created saturated conditions that continued through March. Areas around hay bales in the pasture or in the space leading to the rock surface feeding areas can become difficult for animals to navigate.

Calves often enter the area with the risk of becoming stuck, stepped on by a cow or injured by farm equipment. Not only is it very unfortunate anytime an animal is lost due to the environment, but it is also very difficult to overcome the lost income.

For readers unfamiliar with beef production, a device called a creep gate is used to allow small calves to enter and exit a feeding area, but its narrow opening prevents large cows from entering.

This pen is normally used to allow growing calves access to commodity feed for consumption prior to weaning.

Dr. Steve Higgins, a University of Kentucky Agricultural Engineer for Beef Cattle Feeding Systems, conducted a study last winter to determine if calves preferred a creep gate protected loafing area to the large cow hay feeding area.

The calf loafing area created for this study was in a well-drained area adjacent to a centrally located hay feeding area accessed by cattle from several different pastures throughout the winter.

A sheltered calf area is an option but would not be required. Likewise, bedding or grass cover would be acceptable, as well as any surface that provides insulation and comfort. This adds flexibility and varying levels of expense in preparation. Providing a supplemental feed in the area could be part of a pre-conditioning or pre-weaning program.

Calves tend to find dry areas to lay down, most often on wasted hay around the feeders. Dr. Higgins thought an area limited to only calves would provide access to a drier environment limited from danger.

The farm chosen for the study has a central feeding location. Reasons for this include the routine that calves enter the same area, and after time and exploring, locate and enter the creep area.

They become accustomed to the area and it was found that after a few days the calves would separate from the mom and enter the area. When the cows exited the feeding area, the calves took notice and instinctively rejoined their mothers.

This project was a study to determine the feasibility and success of a safe zone for calves while their mothers forage on hay. In this case, the calves did learn to enter and chose to utilize the area.

A creep pen or pasture area can be accomplished with various methods and materials. Using materials on hand or repurposing an unused infrastructure may reduce the cost to implement.

Saving one calf could pay for the development of such a location prior to winter feeding. The farmer who hosted this project indicated less injury and improvements in the growth and development of calves. He felt the calves had a better start which would lead to higher weaning weights and growth.

Renewable Fuels Standard

In the past three years, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted 85 exemptions from the Renewable Fuels Standard to oil refineries, eliminating billions of gallons of ethanol and biodiesel demand. On Oct. 4, a deal was announced for the EPA to write a supplemental rule to the RFS on how to restore gallons waived by the program each year through small refinery exemptions.

"Reallocation" is actually required by the RFS, but the EPA has been ignoring that clause. In September and early October, President Trump worked with farmer leaders, biofuel producers, and congressional officials on how to restore those gallons to the blend mandate.

The EPA embedded a formula in the proposed new rule that cut the effective restoration of ethanol blending in half. This proposed rule is currently open to public comment providing an opportunity to submit the need to fulfill the RFS mandate and restore the biofuel blend increasing demand for corn and soybean. A website, www.rfsprotect.com, developed by the Kentucky Commodity Associations and Commonwealth Agri-Energy, allows your comments to be submitted quickly and easily.

Extension Office Closed

The Daviess County Cooperative Extension Office will be closed Thursday and Friday in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Clint Hardy is the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources. His column runs weekly in the Agriculture section.

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