Kansas Drought - Part 4

The drought has changed a lot of things around our ranch. Normally in the winter, before the cows start to calve, they are roaming the fields, eating the leftover corn or milo stubble, snacking on the brome grass and we only need to feed them a bit of hay to fill their bellies.

This year, there is no leftover crop in the field. The brome grass was gone long ago and we have very little hay to feed them. Luckily, the corn and milo that didn't produce grain, was chopped and stored for winter feed.  Our cows don't usually get to taste this delicacy...for a delicacy, it is. They love the fermented chopped stalks and it provides more than adequate nutrition in the winter.

But, since we don't usually feed the cows this stuff, we didn't have bunks to put it in!  So the boys were busy last fall building bunks for 350+ cows to eat out of.

At right, my son Trent is busy attaching the boards to the sides of the bunks that he welded together from scrap metal and purchased pipe.  Every ranch has a pile or stack of metal saved for just this kind of project!
My husband got into the act, setting up the metal table saw (not sure that is what you call this thang) in the barnyard to cut the pipe for my son to weld together.
Trent had to cut holes in the pipe to slip the bolts through to hold the boards. This project took a lot of time and energy--they built 8 large feed bunks!  There were no plans to work from...just good old ingenuity and some pictures and measurements from my aunt who has a ranch in western Kansas where it has been dry for a longer time. They routinely have to feed silage to their cows and do it well! So she shared some photos with us and measurements. And my boys took off designing the perfect feed bunk. We are now enjoying having new bunks that are perfect for our cows to have access to the feed.
This is a picture of the proto-type. Of course, it wasn't being used at the time...it was before winter and there is still some grass in the background of the picture. So disregard the weeds you see, as they are long gone now and are no indication of moisture anymore!

Do you remember what silage is? I blogged a 3-part series about the drought late last year, and Part 2 talks about making silage. Check it out!
Kansas Drought Part 1:  Dry Grass & Dry Ponds
Kansas Drought Part 2: Making Silage out of dead crops
Kansas Drought Part 3: Fire is a real threat to dry grass & barns!


  1. Our California rain is in the winter, and it's scattered. The grass is growing slowly and the cattle are keeping up with it. To stretch the hay stack supply, we've been feeding almond hulls, which the cattle run across the pasture for. We need a feeder much like your bunk! I'll show my crew your photo. Karen Sweet

    1. Farm boys can figure it out, can't they?! I'd love to see what the almond hulls look like when you feed them. Cows can utilize some amazing things for protein and energy. Amazing creatures!

  2. Debbie, Great Blog by the way. I'm the CEO of Yellowstone Compact & Commodities in Jackson, Hole Wyoming.

    I've had my lawn and tree care company for 30 years have serving Nebraska, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. I Invent a piece of equipment that some day may help folks that don't have the forage resources such as you did is this blog, to obtain a high energy feed from a non-traditional source.

    My device is called the BioPac'r, it is used by lawn mowing companies to convert grass clipping into "Lawn Clipping Silage(TM)". Landscapers dump their lawn clippings brom their mowing bag directly into the compression chamber. They compress the forage to my predetermined pressure (as you well know, the most critical detail, until they are ready to dump their mowing bag again.

    Once the machine is at it 1600 pound capacity, the landscaper pushed the loaf into a custom made silage bag and then sealed up. After 28 days the ensiling process is complete (Nitrate levels are safe) and the silage is ready to be fed. The University of Wyoming is very excited about the prospects of this new feed supply line. UW has started a feeding trial to determine the ration that can be used. University of Nebraska believes this is going to be a great feed for cow/calf but the mommy's they will be especially happy!

    At this time of this post, there are at least 6 Universities testing Lawn Clipping Silage(TM) or planning to test.

    Keep up the great work,


    1. Thanks Todd. I think this sounds very interesting, although I don't see it as able to feed very many cattle--I think we feed nearly 40 lbs per cow per day. But what a good use of natural resources! I am all about recycling--and this looks like recycling in a great way!

      I have heard of people mixing grass silage (also called haylage) into rations. My uncle does it in Ohio, but our grass is at a premium. So we prefer to feed it straight as hay.

      Keep in touch!


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