Bill Fuller invited neighbor Roy Marcantel to harvest and feed some of his 2009 Big Fellow soybeans. Marcantel harvested the crop as baleage without mixing it with corn, then fed it to yearling Braford heifers as their primary forage throughout the fall and winter.
“It’s a pretty superior product” in terms of its TDN and protein content, he notes.
However, mastering the harvest required some learning, he cautions. Marcantel cut the soybeans when they were about 5’ tall with minimal pod development. He baled them at 40-45% moisture about 36 hours after cutting. Looking back, he wishes he’d used a conditioner as he mowed because the thick, hard stems made the crop difficult to bale. Wrapping the bales was troublesome, too.
“The stems poked through the plastic wrap,” he reports. “A conditioner would have crimped the stems, making them easier to handle. When I net-wrapped it first, that helped.”
Marcantel also had to change things at feeding time. First he tried feeding whole bales. “The cattle wasted the stems. They were too long, too hard and too tough to chew.”
He solved the problem by running the bales through a tub grinder. “It made all the difference,” he notes. “They ate it like candy.”
Bottom line for this grower: “The heifers grew a lot of frame and meat. I sold quite a few, and the ones I have left look just as good as the other cattle. I definitely plan to do it again.”