Archive for March 10th, 2012

Quick Tips: Hay Management

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Now is the time to make plans for getting the most from your hay as fall winds down and winter approaches. These tips can help:

1. Inventory the quantity of your hay on hand.

2. Work with your nutrition consultant to determine the quality of the hay you have.

3. Forage analysis can be useful. Testing hays for protein and energy content will help you design winter supplementation programs for your
specific situation.

4. Work with your nutritionist to develop a plan for your winter supplementation program, based on quality and quantity of hay and potential
changes in cow-herd size. Supplements can help stretch hay supplies.

5. Once you have a plan, look for opportunities to acquire necessary supplements. Grain markets could continue to be very volatile. Watch
these markets closely and work with suppliers to acquire what is needed at an optimum time.

6. Feed hay in small amounts or in a feeder to minimize waste.

7. If you plan to feed more than a day’s worth of feed, feeding in a rack or a hay ring can help reduce waste.

8. Feed hay in well-drained areas.

9. Rotate hay feeding locations to minimize damage to any one area of the pasture.

10. Feed hay stored outside before you feed hay that is stored inside. Outside-stored hay usually has more spoilage during storage and lower
palatability than hay that has been stored inside.

Is Your Hay Supply Adequate Until Spring?

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Do you have enough hay stored to meet the needs of your cattle for the remainder of the winter? Even though you may have stored what you think will be enough hay to carry your herd through the winter, conditions often change so you might be concerned that you will run short before spring.

If you are worried about having enough hay on hand, Warren Gill, University of Tennessee Extension beef specialist, offers this formula to use to help estimate your available feed.

  • Count the number of hay bales you have and, if possible, weigh a few to get an idea of their average weight. Multiply the number of bales by the average weight.
  •  During storage and feeding, you may lose 25 percent or more of large-package bales stored outside. Subtract this amount from the available feed.
  • Calculate the number of animal units. Count a mature cow or bull as one unit, yearling cattle at a half unit and calves as a quarter unit.
  • Determine the number of remaining total days you estimate you will need to use winter feed in your area.
  •  Figure each animal will eat 25 – 30 pounds of hay each day of average-to-good-quality hay with average wastage. Then, multiply your animal units times the number of days times the forage per day. Divide by the average weight of your bales to see how many bales you will need.

If you think your hay supplies will be inadequate and you need to obtain more, you can contact your university extension service or other sources for finding more hay or figuring suitable strategies for stretching your hay supply. State Agricultural Departments in major cattle producing areas also provide listings of where additional hay might be available for purchase.

Here are some reminders for storing the hay when you get it:

  • Soil contact with hay is the most important source of spoilage of hay stored outside. Place bales on crushed rock, a concrete pad or wood pallets, if possible. If you can’t avoid storing hay bales on the ground, pick a well-drained area preferably with sandy soil.
  • Storing bales near the top of a sloping area reduces the amount of water flowing around them. Bale rows should run up and down a sloping area to avoid trapping surface water.
  • Store hay in a sunny location with a southern exposure. Never store under trees or other shady areas where drying can be slow.
  • Bale rows should run north to south rather than east to west.


Purina’s IM Technology Delivers Predicatable Performance

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

It’s a well-researched fact that a stable digestive system in cattle results in increased forage
utilization, digestive function, and overall health and performance (see “Basic Cattle Nutrition”).

Hand feeding range supplements such as range cubes, commodities, or grain mixes, may be causing
instability in your animals’ digestive system. When cattle consume all their supplement in a 5-10-
minute period, binge eating occurs. As a result, forage intake is reduced and so is digestion.

Purina’s Intake Modifying Technology helps an animal’s digestive system function optimally by
causing cattle to eat multiple snacks each day. These snacks provide the necessary ingredients
(ammonia, energy, macro minerals and trace minerals) for rumen microbes — “bugs” — to grow in
number and efficiency. The greater number of these bugs in the rumen, the more efficiently cattle
digest forage. The result is optimal forage intake. Therefore, your cattle’s needs are better met from
your grass or hay, requiring less from your supplement.

Controlled Intake Systems: Controlled Intake Systems utilizing IM TechnologyTM result in:

• Multiple small supplement “snacks” each day that optimize an animal’s nutrient flow

• Consumption based on the quality of forage present. The higher your forage quality, the lower
the supplement intake; the poorer your forage quality, the higher the supplement intake.

• Precision feeding that meets your cattle’s needs regardless of forage quality.

• Maximization of pasture or hay intake and utilization. Controlled Intake Systems enhance
grazing distribution.

• Herd uniformity through nutritional equity. No more “boss” cows. And cows that don’t
respond to your call when you hand feed can still eat 24-hours a day, regardless of weather,
using Purina’s Controlled Intake Systems.

• Decreased delivery cost versus hand feeding. Purina’s Controlled Intake Systems replace daily
hand feeding with once-per-week feeding. Purina research shows this can save you as much as
17¢ per day or $26 per head over a 150-day feeding season.

The bottom line: IM Technology can help you increase the utilization of your greatest and most
economical resource — grass or hay — while providing the correct nutritional profile. And this
means predictable performance from your cattle.

These distinct Controlled Intake Systems are the result of Purina’s IM Technology research.

Accuration®/Cattle LimiterTM. Designed specifically for cows, developing heifers, growing
stockers or yearlings, bull conditioning and development, and creep feeding.

Sup-R-Block®. Designed for cows and bulls, developing heifers, and growing stockers or yearlings.

IMPACT®. Designed for starting, growing, and finishing cattle as well as for bull development. See
your Purina dealer today for a program that is right for your herd.

Seven Vital Trace Minerals for Cattle

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc are trace minerals important to good cattle nutrition. Ranchers and feedlot operators need to know whether or not these minerals are available in their regions and supplement deficiencies accordingly. This TDN excerpts an article by Oklahoma State University animal nutritionist Fred Owens which identified the geographic availability of trace minerals. The original article appeared in the May, 1988 issue of Beef as “The Haves and the Have Nots.”

Moderate and extreme cobalt deficient areas exist primarily in the Central, Northeast and Southeast sections of the U.S. (Figure 1.) If cattle or feeds are obtained from these regions, deficiencies will be more likely. Cobalt levels calculated to be present in typical feedlot diets composed of corn, milo and wheat are .08, .19 and .15 parts per million (ppm). Compared with a .1 ppm requirement, the corn diet at .08 ppm is deficient by .02 ppm and must have cobalt supplemented.

Cobalt deficiency
One of the first signs of cobalt deficiency is a decreased appetite. Injections of cobalt or vitamin B-12 can stimulate the appetite of certain animals; for horses, B-12 injections are common. Vitamin B-12 often is included with vitamins A and D in injections for newly received cattle. As cobalt is a component of vitamin B-12, its requirement might increase with higher levels of propionate production in the rumen. Soil types vary in their cobalt level, and grasses are generally higher in cobalt than legumes.

Soils or plants in the upper Midwest, along the West Coast, in Florida and along the East Coast in the Virginia-Maryland area are low in copper (Figure 2). Copper deficiency also can occur in certain areas of the U.S., which have an excess of molybdenum (Figure 3), such as the Southwest, Florida and Central Texas. Cattle or feed from these areas may be deficient in copper.

The estimated requirement for copper by growing beef cattle was increased from 4 ppm in 1976 to 8 ppm in 1984. The new values are more similar to NRC (National Research Council) dairy requirements.

Dietary copper is tolerated by cattle at levels up to about 115 ppm. In contrast, the tolerance level for sheep fed a low molybdenum diet is only 8 to 11 ppm. When mineral supplements designed for cattle are fed to sheep, toxicities can occur.

With milo-based diets, one need not be concerned about copper, but with corn-based or wheat-based feedlot diets, 2 to 3 ppm of copper needs to be added.

Copper deficiency
With a severe copper deficiency, pigmentation of hair is reduced so that red cattle become yellow and black cattle become gray. Elevated levels of copper from copper sulfate may act as an antibiotic to depress ruminal fermentation.

Soil and plant copper concentrations vary. Young animals absorb copper more extensively than adult animals. High levels of sulfur, molybdenum, calcium and zinc each reduce absorption of copper and thereby increase its dietary requirement. Adequate copper is needed by the immune system, so a copper deficiency may cause animal health problems.

Iodine is deficient in soils of plants across much of the Northern U.S. in the Goiter Belt (Figure 4). In addition, certain plants contain goitrogens that inhibit the use of iodine and increase its requirement.

The estimated iodine requirement for growing cattle is .5 ppm with a tolerance of 8 to 50 ppm. Corn-, milo- or wheat-based feedlot diets contain very little iodine and they all need iodine supplementation.

Iodine deficiency
An iodine deficiency decreases metabolic rate and causes goiter. Plants from low iodine soils have low iodine concentrations. Goitrogenic plants of wide renown and ill repute include those of the cabbage family, although goitrogens are also found in soybean meal, cottonseed meal and rapeseed meal.
Requirements for iodine vary with breed and age of animals. Under cold stress, the turnover rate of iodine increases, which may increase the need for dietary iodine. Castrated animals may require less iodine than do females, and females less than intact males.

A commonly used source of iodine in feeds is ethylenediaminedihydroiodine (EDDI). Some nutritionists have incorporated EDDI into diets as a preventative or cure for foot rot and soft tissue lumpy jaw. However, there is no scientific evidence substantiating the use of EDDI for those treatments. As a result, regulatory authorities have placed a maximum use level on the amount of EDDI that can be included in ruminant diets.

Iron present in soil often is unavailable to either plants or animals; thus, no mapping of soil or plant iron levels has been attempted. Iron availability varies widely with iron source.
Estimated iron requirements for steers have been increased by the NRC from 10 ppm (1976) to 50 ppm (1984). The iron tolerance level for cattle is from 400 to 1,000 ppm. Iron levels in corn, milo and wheat feedlot diets show that a wheat feedlot diet should be lowest, with a deficiency of 7 ppm.

Iron deficiency
As with deficiencies of many other minerals, a shortage of iron reduces rate of gain, a symptom that is hard to detect. Anemia also can occur. Iron loss is elevated by various abomasal or intestinal parasites that cause bleeding into the gut. One can measure iron status of animals by measuring the iron loading of the blood. Young animals need a much higher concentration of dietary iron than do older animals, probably because of expanding blood volume during growth.

Manganese deficiencies of plants and grazing animals occur in the upper Midwest and along both coasts (Figure 5). Plants and soils as well as animals in these areas may have a marginal manganese status.

Estimated requirements for manganese range from 20 to 40 ppm and have been increased from the NRC (1976) estimate of 10 ppm. The tolerance level is about 1,000 ppm, indicating that excesses are well tolerated.

Corn-based feedlot diets are much lower in manganese than are milo- and wheat-based diets. To reach 40 ppm in the diet, 30 ppm needs to be added to the corn diet.

Manganese deficiency
Manganese deficiencies reduce growth rate. In 1951, Bentley and Phillips fed dairy cows diets containing 10 to 30 ppm manganese; three of the eight cows fed 10 ppm developed abscessed livers. Feeding 30 ppm prevented this problem. The effect of manganese on liver abscess incidence in beef cattle has not been tested.

High levels of calcium or phosphorus will increase the need for manganese. Soils vary in manganese content. In some regions, manganese is used as a fertilizer to increase plant production, which in turn can increase the manganese content of plants.

Certain regions in the U.S. have topsoil and plants notably deficient in selenium (Figure 6). In other areas, toxicity of selenium is observed among grazing animals (Figure 7). In the Great Plains, toxicity has been of greater concern than deficiency. However, grain grown in the Eastern part of the Cornbelt and transported to the Great Plains probably will be low in selenium. Corn from some Oklahoma feedlots was recently found to be very low in selenium. This grain probably was imported from a low-selenium area of the U.S.
Selenium requirement estimates for growing beef cattle range from .1 to .2 ppm. The FDA recently approved supplementation with .3 ppm. As the tolerance for selenium is only 2 ppm, care is needed in selenium supplementation and in diet mixing.

Amounts found in various grains vary with their origin. According to the NRC, wheat-based diets are reasonably high in selenium content, while corn-based diets are low, possibly reflecting regional soil concentrations in the primary areas of production. With corn-based feedlot diets, to provide .2 ppm in the complete diet, one must add .13 ppm of selenium.

Selenium deficiency
Long touted as a panacea, selenium performs a number of functions in the body. Both selenium and vitamin E act as metabolic anti-oxidants. Selenium deficiency signs in cattle include white muscle disease and stiffness.

As many selenium compounds are quite volatile, it is necessary to have a good air control system and to use a gas mask when handling and mixing concentrated selenium premixes. Whenever the source of grain being fed in a diet is uncertain, it appears wise to consider that the grain was produced in a low-selenium region of the U.S. and to supplement accordingly. However, selenium supplementation should be avoided when grazing cattle in high-selenium areas of the U.S.

Zinc is deficient in scattered areas of the Pacific Coast states plus Arizona and Utah, but the largest deficient areas are in the Southeast and Texas. Plants may have subnormal zinc levels in Wisconsin and Nebraska (Figure 8). One needs to be concerned about zinc with cattle or feed from these areas.

The requirement for zinc is estimated at 30 ppm, whereas the tolerance is 500 to 1,300 ppm. Corn- and milo-based feedlot diets provide 19 to 21 ppm of zinc, while wheat is considerably richer. For corn and milo diets, some 11 ppm needs to be added.

Zinc deficiency
Signs of zinc deficiency include reduced feed intake and rate of gain. In the human, zinc deficiency causes taste problems, both with loss of acuity and abnormal taste sensations. Another common sign of zinc deficiency is parakeratosis. Scabs and white patches of hair appear on the flanks of zinc-deficient cattle and swine.

Certain genetic strains of Friesian cattle rapidly excrete zinc and they need extremely high levels of zinc to compensate for this. Whether this problem occurs in other breeds of cattle is unknown.

High dietary calcium levels reduce zinc availability and increase its excretion. Infections also can reduce plasma levels of zinc. Rate of wound healing is slowed by a zinc deficiency and the incidence of foot rot has been reported elevated by a zinc deficiency.

Males have more problems with zinc deficiency than females, so zinc may be more critical in diets for steers than for heifers.

Source:  Purina Mills

Quick Tips To Help Reach BCS Goals

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Body condition scores (BCS) are an excellent means of monitoring the effectiveness of your beef-cow-nutrition program. Here are 10
management tips to help ensure your cows are at a target BCS of 6.0 by calving:

  • Late summer-Evaluate your cows while still on grass. If they score thin to borderline moderate during this time and forage availability is still sufficient, provide a balanced protein and energy supplement to improve forage intake and increase forage digestibility.
  • Weaning season-Sort cows by body condition and age. Feed according to target body condition scores desired by calving.
  • Late lactation (2 months prior to weaning)-Depending upon current forage availability, supplementation and/or a modified weaning strategy may be necessary. Wean thin cows.
  • Weaning-Pay particular attention to young cows weaning their first calf and cows beyond their prime age. They are most likely to be thin at this time.
  • 100 days before calving-This is the last opportunity to gain body condition and is a good time to separate thin cows from cows in good condition and increase feed to thin cows.
  • Calving-Thin cows are an indication that a change in the feeding program is needed.
  • Breeding season-If cows are thin, additional supplementation and/or implementation of an early weaning strategy may be necessary.
  • Feedstuffs-Always ensure availability of quality feedstuffs containing ample nutrient levels to meet elevated nutrient requirements of cows during important production periods.
  • BCS fluctuation-Be aware that cow body condition ebbs and flows over time in relation to productivity and climatic conditions. Try to accurately evaluate the status of your cows’ BCS in relation to future levels necessary for key production periods.
  • Supplements-Use supplement programs which correct for nutritional deficiencies and also complement and improve utilization of the base forage.

Good Nutrition Vital for Efficient Reproduction
Good nutrition is critical for efficient reproduction in cow-calf enterprises. Most reproductive failures in beef cows, for example, can be attributed to improper nutrition resulting
in thin body condition.  The cow’s priorities for nutrition are maintenance, lactation, growth and reproduction. The nutrition level pre- and post-calving affects the conception rate of subsequent breedingseasons. Cows that are thin prior to calving will have a delayed onset of estrus. Thin cows after calving will have reduced conception rates.

Obesity is a problem in heifers that become fat during the growing phase. Fat heifers normally have lower than average reproductive rates. Immature cows continue to grow until
approximately 4 years of age. These young cows should be maintained through the yearly cycle about one body condition score (BCS) higher than mature cows to achieve the same
reproductive performance.

Monitor the effectiveness of your nutrition program in the long-term by herd performance records. But, to deal with your present situation in the short term, pay close attention
to the BCS of your cows.

According to information from the Minnesota University Extension Service, research has shown that each 10 percent of body weight lost before calving can result in a delay of the first heat period by 19 additional days. Cows too thin at calving take longer to recover and to start cycling for re-breeding. These cows will have lower conception rates than cows in moderate to good condition at calving. It is important to bring thin cows into condition as soon as possible to improve the odds of success at the start of the breeding season.
Dividing the cow herd into two groups according to nutritional needs, and feeding them accordingly, can have a positive impact on re-breeding success.

Bull Nutrition
Nutrition also is important for the reproductive efficiency of breeding bulls.  Management of bulls includes the following three phases:

  • Before breeding season – Nutrition prior to the breeding season is important as bulls will tend to lose weight during the season.
  • Yearling bulls – Should be growing adequately and maintaining satisfactory body condition without becoming excessively fat. This will require between 25 and 30 pounds of dry matter from a ration that is about 80 percent high quality forage and 20 percent concentrate. A 12 percent to 14 percent protein ration is needed. In many cases, a complete feed that will put bulls in good rigor without over conditioning them is preferred.
  • 2 year old bulls – Are already at most of their mature size, so their ration is not quite as crucial. Approximately 30 to 35 pounds of a ration consisting of high quality forage and 5 pounds of grain should meet their needs.
  • Mature bulls – The nutrition program should be based on physical condition of the bulls at the start of the conditioning period. If they have wintered well, a high quality forage plus 5 to 7 pounds of grain will build the necessary energy reserves.

Bulls should be evaluated and separated into two groups as they come out of pastures.  Those in good condition that need no special care should be placed in one group. They
will usually do well on primarily roughage diet. Young bulls that are still growing, and thin mature bulls, should be placed together so their nutrient needs may be met with some
supplemental feed. All bulls should have access to high quality minerals.

Purina Mills, LLC has feed products to meet the precise nutrient needs of both brood cows and breeding bulls. Your Purina representative can help you determine cow and bull
nutrient needs and select the supplements to help meet the specific needs of your herd.

Purina Mills ®

Fall Cow-Calf Management Reminders

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Fall Cow-Calf Management Reminders
• Beginning in late October or November, provide supplemental feed for bulls on dry grass according to age and condition.
• Evaluate cows’ body condition score (BCS) at weaning.  Develop winter nutrition program to have cows at a BCS of six at calving to enhance rebreeding performance.
• Check with your Extension office for information on educational meetings about livestock and forage production
• If fall calving, lactating cows need to be in good condition for breeding, a BCS of at least 5.5.
• Treat cattle for lice if needed.
• If spring calving, check the weaned steer and heifer calves regularly to produce desired gains.
• In spring calving enterprises, if culling is not completed in September and october, it should be completed this month.
• Check your financial management plan and make appropriate adjustments before the end of the year.
• Monitor the herd continuously for health problems.
• Treat cows for internal parasites if needed.
• If spring calving, identify the purebred herds and test stations at which you want to look for herd sires.  Check sale dates and review performance criteria to use.

By David Lalman Kent Barnes – Beef Cattle Specialist, Bruce Peverley – Area Livestock Specialist, Greg Highfill – Area Livestock Specialist, Jack Wallace – Area Livestock Specialist, Terry Bidwell – Range Management Specialist, Larry Redmon Steve Smith – Forage Management Specialist, Steve Smith – Area Livestock Specialisy, Chuck Strasia – Area Livestock Specialist, John Kirkpatrick – Veterinary Medicine, Glenn Selk – Reproductive Specialist,
Published by Oklahoma State University Extension

(all other months available at:)

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Looking to make your own hummingbird nectar?  Here is a easy recipe.  


1 Part Sugar
4 Parts Water
Boil 1-2 Minutes
Cool & Store In Refrigerator


Never use honey or artificial sweeteners! Honey ferments easily, and can cause sores in a hummers mouth. Artificial sweeteners have no food value. 

Sustained Nutrition for Lifetime Performance

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

There are unfortunately many examples to draw upon from our history, especially during wartime, of maternal nutritional deprivation and the long term effects on the lives of their children, and their children’s children. The list includes: diabetes; hypertension; glucose intolerance; insulin resistance; renal failure; cardiovascular disease; and hyperlipidemia.
The word “Epigenetics” has emerged as “the idea that environmental factors (to include nutrition, weather, or any outside stressors on the genetic pool), which cause the gene pool to behave differently even though the genes do not change”. These changes are permanent; last through life; and can be passed on to future generations.
What about cattle? Our paradigm has been that we have primarily been concerned about the calf and cow after birth. However, the norm has been maternal hunger during conception, where we actually plan for cows to loose weight at and following conception. This is generally due to energy/protein shortages at first forage green-up when forages are limiting in volume; or during drought; or during winter periods of shortage. Maternal malnutrition may be the norm.
More and more research is validating that not only is the last 1/3rd of pregnancy important when over 2/3rd’s of calf growth occurs in utero, but the 1st and 2nd trimester are equally important as numerous growth functions are occurring. These include: placenta development; organ development and growth, as well as muscle cell initiation, development and proliferation. These needs must be added to our historical concerns for the cow to rebreed and the calf to grow post calving.
Looking at the reproductive and economic value of the entire life stage process must include not on the post calving but the pre calving need as well. Let’s evaluate the need to have a cow in the right shape at calving and then work backwards to the importance of right or “sustained nutrition” from conception through weaning. The Research data “hands down” suggests the value of having cows in a 6 body condition score at calving (Slide 2 – BCS 6 cow). Condition score 6 cows will come back in heat quicker and breed quicker (Slide 3), and milk heavier resulting in increased weaning weight (Slide 4). Cows in a higher plane of nutrition will also sustain peak milk production longer and producer more milk per day and per 210 cycle (Slide 5). Cows in a 6 score at calving stand sooner allowing the calf to suck quicker receiving “first milk”, colostrum, with enhanced immunoglobulins availability for enhanced disease resistance. Bottomline, cows fed to meet their nutrient requirements versus those restricted had 12% more calves weaned per cows exposed (Slide 7)!
Maternal nutrition in utero also programs the developing fetus. Maternal undernutrition has an effect on:

  • The developing vascular system
  • Reduces nutrition and oxygen to the fetus
  • Fetal organogenesis
  • Progeny structure, physiology, and structure
  • Lung growth and function
  • Response to respiratory challenge
  • Skeletal cell muscle development

Effect of cow supplementation vs. no supplementation during the last trimester on heifer reproduction and calving indicate a substantial improvement not only in final pregnancy rate but the number of subsequent calves that are then born to these 1st calf heifers in the 1st 21 days and reduced levels of assistance at birth (Slide 8).  In addition, the effect of cows on a winter program with and without supplementation in the last trimester indicates less steer calves treated if the cows were supplemented and increased hot carcass weights, in the winter range supplemented group, and improved marbling in all supplemented groups as well as increased net return per steer calf (Slide 9).
Land O’Lakes Purina Feed has been working on means of providing “Sustained Nutrition” for the cowherd for over 12 years, using Intake Modifying Technology. This technology allows the cow to be supplemented 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. Intake of the supplement is directly correlated to forage quality, forage quantity, and cow need. Slides 10 and 11 show increasing supplement intake from June to January and decreasing intake as we then move into the spring and summer due to changing forage quality. Cow performance improved in both conception rate and weaning weights when the IM Technology product was provided 24/7/365.
Slides 12-14, in a second ranching location, indicate when the IM Technology product was left out on a year round basis, providing Sustained Nutrition to the cow herd versus placed out for 150 days of supplementation, that actual supplement intake was reduced, pregnancy rate increased, and weaning weights improved. The final slide shows 18 pasture summary on another ranching location, over a 2 year period were the average intake per cow ranged from 1.36 lbs/hd/day in year 2 to 1.81 lbs/hd/day in year 1 during a drought. Cow body condition scores were at least 5.5 at bull turn-in averaging 86% to 91% with respective breed backs of 95.8% and 94.5%.
We sure don’t have all the answers but supplying “Sustained Nutrition” for the cow herd while controlling intake based on forage quality sure seems to make sense. As was so appropriately said in a recent Beef Magazine Article, 2/24/2010, “They Are What Mama Eats”!

Speech given (‘Sustained Nutrition and Lifetime Performance’) by Lee Dickerson LLC Purina Mills

Quick Tips: Weaning Management

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

A calf’s diet and surroundings change dramatically at weaning and if you don’t closely manage this lifestage, the value of your calves can be reduced.  Calves can become sick and won’t grow as they should.

Here are four weaning management tips to ensure calves get a good, healthy start after they are weaned.

1. Reduce Stress.  Perform dehorning and castration before weaning.  If the weather is still warm, have most of the moving and handling done by noon or early afternoon.  Quickly and quietly separate calves from their dams.  Ensure calves get started on water as soon as possible.  When transporting calves, guard against severe fatigue.

2. Provide balanced and adequate nutrition.  Wean calves before energy and protein levels of feed become inadequate.  When forage is limited, early weaning can allow calves to maintain a high rate of growth and also prepare cows with improved body condition for winter.  Because feed consumption is reduced in newly weaned calves, high quality feed should be provided.  Also pay attention to micronutrients, such as copper and zinc.  Deficiencies of these elements can lead to increased illness and a decline in growth performance.

3. Control and monitor for parasites.  Internal and external parasites can impact performance and also compromise the calf’s immune system.

4. Vaccine calves.  Work with your veterinarian in developing and implementing specific calf vaccine protocols for your operation.  As a minimum, you should vaccinate to protect calves against clostridial diseases and the common bovine respiratory disease viruses.

Source:  Purina Mills

10 cow-calf winter preparation tips

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Now is the perfect time for beef producers to make management decisions that will affect the health, productivity and profitability of the herd over the next production cycle. The following are tips and guidelines to consider.

1. Wean based on pasture quality and quantity:
When pasture quality declines below that required to support calf growth, and/or quantity declines to the point that calves cannot compete with cows for the available forage, calves will start to loose body weight. It is a myth that calf growth will be maintained by milk production; by the time calves reach 400 pounds, and especially when forage availability is low, milk intake will supply as little as ten percent of the calfs nutritional requirements, and some cows will voluntarily dry off. When this occurs it is more beneficial and economical to wean the calves as it:

a. Is easier and more economical to supplement the calves than the whole herd,

b. will extend the grazing for the cow herd, and

c. will reduce the extent of body weight loss in the cow herd, especially for first calf heifers.

“A research project at Kansas State University a few years ago showed that cows on unsupplemented pasture who continued nursing calves until December lost about 150 pounds and 1.5 points in body condition score by their next calving. If calves must be left on the cows this late, pasture must be supplemented.” (Heather Smith Thomas,, Oct. 29, 2002)

2. Preg–check cows and heifers:
At weaning, preg–check all animals that were bred, and cull those that are open or will calve late. Open cows are too expensive to maintain on limited and costly feed resources these days, as can be cows that will calve outside a 70 to 90 day calving window. Late calvers will generally wean small calves the following year and be even harder to breed back in time to calve within the target window.

This is also a good time to check the cows to detect and deal with problems that might affect future health or productivity, such as age, teeth condition, illness or injury.

3. Assess body condition and group cows/heifers for fall/winter feeding:
Target for a moderate body condition (4–6 on a 9 point scale) going into the colder weather of winter, as well as before calving. If possible, group thinner cows with bred heifers after weaning and place them on a higher plane of nutrition than the rest of the herd so that the higher nutritional requirements of the still growing heifers will be met, and the thin cows will have an opportunity to gain weight before the coldest part of the winter sets in and thus be in better condition for calving. Research shows that cows in good to moderate body condition can lose weight equivalent to two body condition scores without affecting calving or reproductive performance as long as their nutritional requirements are fully met from four weeks prior to calving and onward. Therefore, by grouping animals according to nutritional requirements and feeding accordingly, there is tremendous opportunity to save feed and labor.

4. Deworm and vaccinate:
Cows should be treated at weaning for internal and external parasites picked up during the summer and fall grazing seasons, as these increase feed requirements and susceptibility to disease during the winter. This is also a good time to give semi–annual vaccinations for diseases such as lepto, vibrio, IBR and BVD, the risk of which also increases as animals are congregated for winter feeding and calving. Your local veterinarian should be consulted to determine what the cows need to be treated for and which products should be the most effective in your area. Obviously, there is little reason to treat animals that are to be culled, so save the cost.

“Lice are one of the most costly and underrated parasites of cattle, accounting for millions of dollars lost each year due to reduced feed conversion, weight loss, anemia and sometimes even death. During the last cold months of winter and into early spring, lice can be a constant cause of irritation putting additional stress on cattle and draining energy reserves.” (Heather Smith Thomas,, Oct. 29, 2002)

5. Have feed analyzed:
It is not possible to make progress in reducing feed costs and ensuring nutritional requirements are met without having feeds, and especially forages, analyzed for nutritional content. At a minimum, they should be analyzed for dry matter (DM), crude protein (CP), fiber (ADF) and the minerals calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P), either by wet chemistry or NIR (Near Infrared) scan. Fiber analysis is essential for the lab to be able to estimate energy content as TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients) or Net Energy (NEm or NEg). Feed of different types, different cuttings and even from different fields should be analyzed separately. It may also be advisable to sample and analyze fall grazing materials such as stockpiled grass, crop residues, swath grazing, straws etc. if this has not been done before. Then, it will be possible to allocate specific feedstuffs according to stage of production and nutritional requirements over the winter feeding period.

6. Develop feeding plan/programs:
There is a tendency for beef cow–calf producers to over–feed cows between weaning and calving, and then underfeed them from late gestation through calving and rebreeding. This is very wasteful and costly. Post–weaning, cows have their lowest nutritional requirements and will do well on a diet of 48–50% TDN and a minimum of 7% CP. During the last month of gestation, calving and rebreeding, they require a diet with 60–62% TDN and a minimum of 10% CP to be healthy and productive. This is a substantial difference in feed quality that requires planning to determine how it is to be achieved with the resources at hand, and to prevent over–feeding and fattening of the cows during the “dry” period. If higher quality feeds than required are available, they can be limit fed to save feed and cost, or diluted with lower quality purchased feeds if economical sources are available. Your local feed supplier or government extension agent may be available to assist you in developing appropriate diets for each stage of production. Waiting to “see what happens” is almost always more expensive, and hard on the cattle.

7. Evaluate feed inventory:
The fall is the best time to evaluate your feed inventory and its adequacy for the coming feeding season. Once the analysis has been done, and your feeding plan has been developed, consider the length of feeding period(s) and the weather conditions being forecast, and then total up the amount of each class of feed you will require to make it through the feeding season and compare it against the inventory on hand. Be sure to include a 10–15% margin for error and an appropriate value for spoilage in storage and wastage during feeding (these latter two may be greater than you think). If the current feed inventory is not adequate to comfortably make it through the full calving season, NOW (i.e. the fall) is the best time to make adjustments, by either limiting early season feeding rates, making arrangements to buy more feed (greatest availability and lowest cost) or decreasing the size of the herd.

8. Adjust feeding rates for cold weather:
Beef cattle feed (energy) requirements increase by roughly two percent (2%) for every degree Celsius that effective temperature (measured as wind chill) drops below their lower critical temperature (about 0°C or 32°F with a normal winter coat), when they must start to actively generate heat to maintain core body temperature. If feed intake does not increase sufficiently to compensate for the drop in temperature, energy supplements will need to be provided to prevent loss in body weight and condition. Care must be taken when feeding poor quality forages, and especially straw, as the drive for intake, along with poor digestion, can cause rumen impaction during cold weather.

9. Check waterers and feeding areas:
Dry matter intake is dependent on water intake, and both are especially important during fall grazing and winter feeding when poorer quality roughage is fed. The fall is a great time to ensure all water sources are operating, clean and will remain free of ice when cold weather arrives.

It is also a great time to check and set up the winter feeding area (e.g. fencing and feeders) and feeding equipment to ensure that everything is ready when winter feeding needs to begin. This includes ensuring your TMR mixer receives its annual service, including changing the oil in the planetary gearbox, removing and cleaning under the auger of vertical mixers to check for wear and that oil lubrication parts are in good repair, checking and rotating or changing blades as required, and ensuring that the weigh bars and scale are working correctly.

10. Reduce feed wastage:
One of the easiest ways to increase cow–calf profitability is to decrease feed wastage. Feeding on the ground has been shown to waste up to 60% of feeding value through selection and trampling. Hay and bale feeders will reduce wastage but it can still reach up to 30% in traditional feeders, and increases as forage quality declines. Research at the University of Michigan showed that wastage varied by feeder type, being 3.4, 6.1 11.4 and 14.6% for cone, ring, trailer and cradle feeders when fed relatively good quality (35% ADF) mixed alfalfa–orchardgrass round bales.

Bale feeding still presents a challenge on how to feed forages, supplements and opportunity feeds in a way that each animal gets what they require; over consumption by older and more aggressive cows is also a form of wastage. For this reason many producers are experiencing the benefits of using a vertical auger, TMR mixer for feeding. With a vertical mixer, hay can be processed into a ration that minimizes sorting and virtually eliminates waste. Intake of poorer quality forages can also increase by as much as 30% helping meet requirements on lower cost feeds. Finally, it is then easy to weigh the feed and mix in grain, supplements and mineral and vitamins, as required, to balance the ration for a given stage of production, and to minimize feed cost while optimizing animal health and performance. Conservative estimates have shown that the value of a TMR mixer should be a minimum of the combination of 10 to 15% in annual feed cost, through feed savings, plus 10–15 % of the value of the animals marketed annually, through improved animal performance.

Source: Dr. Alan S. Vaage, Ruminant Nutritionist, Jaylor Fabricating


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March 2012