Winter Check-up for the Beef Herd

Dec 28, 2020


Winter is in full swing and most beef producers are busy keeping hay in front of their cows, providing supplemental feed, and checking newborn calves. During this busy time it is easy to be caught up in the hectic daily routine, but do not lose sight of the big picture. For spring-calving herds, winter feeding coincides with the last third of gestation and early lactation. Sensible decisions now can have a significant impact on the health of newborn calves, the amount of milk produced by their mother, and how soon the cow breeds back after calving. Keep the following in mind as spring approaches:
  • Cows in the last third of gestation require a considerably higher level of nutrition than dry cows in early gestation. Supplementing hay with additional nutrition in the form of complete feeds, blocks, or tubs may be beneficial.   
  • In preparation for calving, make sure your calving kit is well stocked and readily available.  Essential items include a calf puller, obstetric chains and handles, plastic sleeves, lubricant, antiseptic, naval dip, paper towels, and a headlamp. 
  • Review procedures regarding when and how to provide calving assistance. Lack of progress for more than one hour or an abnormal presentation indicate the need for help.  
  • Cows need to calve once every 365 days to be considered reproductively efficient. That leaves roughly 82 days after calving for the cow to return to estrus and conceive. Since body condition is the best indicator of reproductive status, supplement as needed to achieve a body condition score of 5 to 6 at breeding.
  • Grass tetany often occurs in late winter and early spring and is associated with low levels of magnesium in new growth of cool-season grasses. Hi-mag mineral supplements, blocks, and tubs are effective ways of providing supplemental magnesium.
Visit with your local Co-op livestock specialist to custom tailor a plan for your operation.  Your herd will be better prepared to perform in the critical months ahead. 
 

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