The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s winter feed and fodder programs help farmers harvest winter crops and feed livestock during the cold season, but farmers still face challenges with winter fodder, which is often sold to livestock for their own use.
While winter fodder is a vital ingredient in many livestock feed products, some farmers have struggled to find suitable winter fodder sources.
“Fodder production is impacted by a variety of factors, including soil, weather, and climate conditions,” said Karen Smith, assistant director for winter feed programs for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
“The main issues are soil quality and the ability to access the winter feed.”
Winter fodder, or winter grain, is produced during the spring, but it is not harvested until late May, when farmers need to have enough of it to feed livestock.
The USDA’s winter food program is based on a theory called the Batch Exchange Model, which allows farmers to choose the most appropriate fodder to feed their animals.
“The program uses a two-part model: A seasonal allocation of winter feed to selected species in the winter and a distribution of winter fodder to selected crop species in fall,” Smith said.
Smith said that the USDA estimates that it has spent about $1.2 billion to purchase winter fodder from farmers since the program began in 2007.
According to Smith, the USDA has made some progress in recent years with winter pasture and feed products.
The program’s winter fodder supply is now available to farmers in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and South Dakota, and USDA has also purchased winter fodder in the United Kingdom, Italy, and France.
However, winter fodder supplies remain scarce for other crops.
According to the USDA, in 2015, more than half of the United States’ cropland was not in winter pasture, and nearly a quarter of all croplands were not in the coldest part of the year.
In some cases, farmers still have trouble finding winter fodder due to weather conditions and soil conditions.
Smith said farmers must be prepared to use winter fodder for up to six months of the growing season.
When using winter fodder during the winter, Smith said it should be mixed with grasses, herbs, and other non-perishable feed to make sure the product will not affect the soil or crop.
She also said it is important to note that it is very important to have winter fodder available for livestock and that livestock feeders should check their livestock for diseases that can be transmitted from feed to livestock.
“It is important for farmers to use feed from a variety, because different types of feed may have different health effects,” Smith explained.
“For example, some feed may not provide the same nutrients as other types of food.”
Smith also said that if you do not have access to a good source of winter pasture or feed, you should still try to find an alternative feed source.
“Some farmers may not have the means to get winter fodder,” Smith added.
“Other farmers may be able to find it from their neighbors or from farmers in other states.”
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But it is critical that farmers continue to use the winter fodder program to maximize their production.”
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @AllieConti.