Winter Rations for Beef Cows

Sample rations for mature, 1,300 lb cows, in good body condition, and in different stages of production are shown below. These rations are meant as guidelines only. They should not replace feed analysis and individual ration balancing. Rations assume cows are receiving additional vitamin A.

The numbers listed are actual intakes and do not take wastage into account. Forage wastage can be as high as 25-30% in some circumstances.  Cows in poor body condition and/or exposed to severe environmental conditions will require a significantly higher plane of nutrition.

Mid Gestation
Alfalfa Grass Grass Hay Straw
18 lbs alfalfa grass 17 lbs grass hay 25 lbs straw
13 lbs straw 14 lbs straw 7 lbs barley
2 oz 1:1 mineral 2 oz 1:1 mineral 2 oz 2:1 mineral
1 oz salt 1 oz salt 1 oz salt
Late Gestation
Alfalfa Grass Grass Hay Straw
26.5 lbs alfalfa grass 26 lbs grass hay 18 lbs straw
4.5 lbs barley 4 lbs barley 13.5 lbs barley
2 oz 1:1 mineral 2 oz 2:1 mineral 4 oz 2:1 mineral
1 oz salt 1 oz salt 1 oz salt
Alfalfa Alfalfa Grass Greenfeed
30 lbs alfalfa 23 lbs alfalfa grass 35 lbs greenfeed
7.5 lbs barley grain 13.5 lbs barley 3.5 lbs barley grain
3 oz 1:1 mineral 3 oz 1:1 mineral 3 oz 2:1 mineral
2 oz salt 2 oz salt 2 oz salt

Cow Nutrition and Body Condition

Body condition scoring is a simple way to evaluate your feeding program. Body condition scoring rates cows based upon the amount of fat they are carrying on a scale of one to five. If cows are in poor condition at time of calving, reproduction will be negatively affected, resulting in more open cows and longer calving periods. Cows coming into the winter in poor condition require additional energy which can be economically supplied by good quality forage or grain.

For information on condition scoring, visit: Body Condition - Beef Cattle Research Council

Minerals for Beef Cows

Type of Mineral Mix to Feed

  • 1:1 alfalfa grass, alfalfa, pasture grasses
  • 2:1 greenfeeds, cereal silage, corn silage, native hay, straw/grain rations

Suggested Trace Mineral Levels in Mineral Mix

  • Selenium (Se) 30 mg/kg
  • Copper (Cu) 2,500 mg/kg
  • Manganese (Mn) 8,000 mg/kg
  • Zinc (Zn) 8,000 mg/kg
  • Cobalt-iodized or trace mineralized salt should be fed


Cows require 30,000 IU Vitamin A/day during pregnancy and 50,000 IU/day during lactation. This can be provided by routine injection every 2 to 3 months during the winter months or by the addition of a vitamin premix to the feed.

For example: if you are feeding a vitamin premix (1,500,000 IU Vitamin A/kg) a cow would need 20 g premix/day during gestation and 35 g premix/day during lactation.