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Nutrition – Parturition – Reproduction – oh My!

January 26, 2017

Nutrition – Parturition – Reproduction – oh My!

Thus far, winter weather conditions in Arkansas have been mild, not adding much environmental stress to the herd.  While attention is focused on calving, don’t neglect to monitor body condition and adjust supplemental feeding rates, especially for first-calf heifers.  The nutrient density of the diet is about 7% greater for those first-calf heifers compared to mature cows; so, hay quality may be adequate for lactating cows, but not those 2-year-old mothers.  Even very good quality hay can be inadequate in energy content for young mothers.

To calve within 365 days, cows should have entered the calving season in at least moderate body condition and first-calf heifers should had been in slightly fleshy condition.  Both mature and 2-year-old cows need to be managed after calving to avoid excessive body condition loss.  Sometimes this necessitates feeding first-calf heifers separate from mature cows beginning at calving to keep supplemental feed cost from being excessive.

When choosing a supplement, don’t get caught in the Practical Protein Trap.  Self-fed supplements are very effective at delivering supplemental protein, but product consumption limitations and cost can make them a poor choice for energy supplementation.  When it comes to supplementing energy, in most cases ‘If it’s easy, it ain’t enough’.  If supplemental feeding is necessary, don’t pour feed in the trough and drive away.  Use this time to make sure you have enough trough space to feed both the sprinters and lagers and monitor individual animal health.

If you’re not sure what type of supplement the herd needs, start by testing your hay for nutritive value since it comprises nearly all of the winter diet.  A routine forage analysis costs $18 and your county Extension office can assist with submission and interpretation of results.

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