Nutrition Crucial to Success With Beef Cattle According to recent USDA data, half the cows studied actually weighed less
at weaning than they did a week after calving. That indicates that cows are actually losing weight at the height of
the grazing season, when their nutritional needs should be highest. To offset this, ranchers need to add more feed
to the mix in the fall and winter to help get the calving female to their proper nutritional levels.
In seasons when forage is available, some have practiced early weaning
to reduce nutritional demands and put weight on the cow. In some instances, producers have found that weaning
calves into a feedlot, where growth can be accelerated quickly, and allowing the cows to graze without nursing
calves can be better for overall production.
Routine body condition scoring is the easiest way to monitor the nutritional health of
your herd. On a scale of 1 -9, with 1 being skinny and 9 being fattest, cows below a body conditioning score of 5
at calving have been found to not breed back as well as properly conditioned cows.
Good Nutrition Costs but It Pays As Well
Nutrition and good nutritional practices is, by far, the single biggest cost of a
calf-cow operation. Studies have shown spending on this accounted for more than 50 percent of annual costs, but
producers need to be ready and able to bear the high expenses if they are to return a profit and be successful.
Several smaller ranchers have benefited from the resources, programs and classes
offered by their local extensions or alliances. Getting some outside advice on forage and nutrition can also be as
easy as hopping on the internet, where a variety of resources exist that discuss topics from the basics of
nutrition to the various supplements and latest advances. Veterinarians are also a great source of knowledge if
you’re looking to develop a new nutrition program.
Ration calculation has also proven successful for the majority of ranchers who
have implemented a similar regimented system to maintain the nutritional levels of the herd and ensure they remain
consistent. Besides balancing the nutritional needs of the cow, calculating balanced rations also helps the
producer keep stock and tab on the amount of feed their herd consumes. This can be a boost to profitability, as the
costs of feed, while not necessarily decreasing, can be brought to a consistent level over time. By rationing, you
also eliminate wasted feed and overeating, which often accompanies an unrationed system.
While many operations rely on harvested forage around them and turn to book values when
evaluating rationing, this can be somewhat misleading. There are a variety of nutrients in forage, that can easily
be missing in one harvest and appear in the next. Rather than assume, many today are submitting their feed to a
local agricultural laboratory or other business which conducts feed sampling. This provides a detailed analysis of
the exact nutritional makeup of the feed, and ensures the cows are getting the proper nutrition in the proper
amounts. This also helps develop a nutritional rationing program that is based on the exact nutrients your cows are
Pay Attention to Details
In the end, the devil is in the details. A nutritional management plan that
addresses the entire production process is crucial to any operations’ success and profitability. Armed with
detailed nutritional information about certain feeds, other, less expensive feed can be purchased to round out the
diet. Once you have a detailed understanding of your herd, developing the right nutritional program can ensure the
herd remains consistently healthy and productive, which will ultimately reap tremendous economic benefits and