Beware of Reducing Feed at Calving!

– Dr. Les Anderson, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

Reducing the feed at calving causes problems!

I presented at a Master Cattlemen session recently and, after the meeting, got asked a common question about body condition and feeding cows at calving. His question was he had heard that he should reduce feed to his cows before calving to keep birthweights lower to reduce calving problems. He indicated that the BCS of his cows as they begin to calve was only 4. This is a frustrating question because it comes up often and nothing could be further from the truth.

Several researchers have addressed this issue over the last 20-30 years. Each of these experiments had cows that were fed to maintain weight, decrease weight, or increase weight right before calving began. The result of underfeeding cows before calving results in the exact problem the producer is trying to avoid. The research demonstrated that poor nutrition and low BCS precalving:

• Increased calving problems
• Decreased calf health (low colostrum consumption and poor-quality colostrum)
• Increased calf death loss
• Increased the number of days for females to resume estrous cycles.

One of the most extreme Continue reading

Minerals: Too Much of a Good Thing

Dr. Katie VanValin, Assistant Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Minerals are an essential nutrient for beef cattle. This means like protein and energy, minerals must be supplied in the diet, however minerals make up a very small portion of the total diet. Many feedstuffs are deficient in one or more essential minerals which is why mineral supplementation is a critical component of meeting the nutritional needs of the herd. So, this begs the question, “if a little is good, isn’t more better?”. The truth is we can have too much of a good thing when it comes to minerals, and this can lead to serious and sometimes fatal consequences.

The sulfur requirement for beef cattle is 0.15%, with maximum tolerable concentrations of 0.3% in high concentrate diets (15% roughage or less), and 0.5% in high roughage diets (40% or greater roughage). By-product feeds including corn gluten feed and distillers grains can be high in sulfur content. According to the Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle (NASEM, 2016), sulfur content of corn gluten feed, dried distillers grains, and distillers solubles averaged 0.58%, 0.66%, and 0.82% S, respectively. Sulfur content of forages also needs to be accounted for and can range between Continue reading

Ensuring Healthy Herds: The Critical Role of Water Management for Livestock in Winter

Kate Hornyak, OSU Extension Program Coordinator, Delaware County (originally published on Ohio Farmer on-line)

A heavy equipment tire can be a large capacity water trough.

Water stands as an essential nutrient for beef cattle, much like it does for humans. It plays a vital role in various bodily functions, including growth, reproduction, lactation, and the regulation of body temperature. However, the winter season intensifies the challenge of providing a sufficient and accessible water supply. This difficulty is compounded by the freezing temperatures and changes in the behavior of the livestock during colder months.

Challenges in Winter Water Management

Managing water for livestock during the winter months presents distinct hurdles. The primary issue is the freezing of water sources, limiting cattle’s access to water. Cattle often increase their water consumption in colder weather to meet their heightened energy needs. This requires more focused management strategies to ensure they receive sufficient hydration.

In colder temperatures, cattle consume more feed to maintain body heat. If water availability decreases, feed intake also drops, leading to Continue reading

Tips to Stretch Short Hay Supplies

– Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, PhD, PAS, Beef Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Below are a few tips to consider stretching limited hay supplies. For additional information contact your local Extension agent. It is recommended to consult with your feed nutritionist or County ANR Agent before making drastic changes in your feeding program.

  1. Inventory hay – know how much hay you have available; weigh a few bales to get an average weight or estimate the weights based on available information from Extension publications.
  2. Minimize storage losses – keep hay off the ground on a surface that will allow water to drain away; keep bales covered or stored inside a barn; if bale grazing limit the number of bales placed in the field to provide 2-4 weeks of feeding to reduce weathering losses.
  3. Reduce feeding loss – consider minimizing feeding losses; using hay rings with skirts / metal on the bottom, tapered ring designs, chains to suspend bales, or cone inserts to keep hay inside the feeder has been proven to reduce hay feeding losses compared to hay rings with openings at the bottom; using an electrified temporary poly-wire placed down the center of unrolled hay will reduce losses from cows laying on the hay, trampling it into the mud, and defecating on the hay; feeding processed hay into a bunk or large industrial tire reduces waste compared to feeding processed hay on the ground.
  4. Cull – consider selling less productive females, open cows, and cows with structural/functional issues to reduce the number you must over winter; consider selling the bull as the market may provide the opportunity to sell a mature bull and replace him with a younger bull next spring.
  5. Limit time access to hay – research has shown dry cows in mid-gestation can be maintained on good quality hay when they have restricted access time to only 6-8 hours a day; the hay savings comes from less waste as feeding behavior is altered; all cows must be able to access hay at any given time; this is not recommended young or thin cows, lactating cows or growing animals.
  6. Substitute hay with grain – calories and protein can be provided from supplements; grain/commodity mixes can be used to replace hay; cows can be maintained on a low hay diet by using grain supplementation that balances the nutrient supply and animal requirements; consult a nutritionist before making extreme feeding changes.
  7. Deworm young animals – animals with an internal parasite burden will have reduced efficiency.
  8. Feed an ionophore – if grain supplementation will be used, consider adding an ionophore to increase the energy efficiency of the feed consumed. Consult your nutritionist to discuss inclusion rates and developing a supplement program. Previous work has shown that feeding 200 mg of monensin allowed cows to maintain body condition on 10-15% less hay.

Nutritional Considerations Going into Calving

– Lawton Stewart, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, UGA

Nutritional requirements change with the stages of reproduction.

As we start 2024, many beef cattle producers are about to start the calving season. Across the state, forage availability is variable. Some places have seen severe drought in late summer/early fall, causing producers to feed more hay and deplete their winter hay supply. Many producers were able to put up plenty of hay. However, we have received several emails and phone calls dealing with hay quality being lower than expected this year. Entering the peak of hay feeding season, here are a few situations we are seeing, and the potential ramifications.

  1. I will restrict feed in the last trimester to decrease calf birth weights.
  2. I need more protein to go with my hay.
  3. There is a tendency to underestimate crude protein and overestimate energy.

I will restrict feed in the last trimester to decrease calf birth weights.
Is this correct? Absolutely! The problem is that is not the only thing it will affect. Recent research has focused on fetal programming. Fetal programming is the concept that maternal stimulus or insult during fetal development has long-term effects on the offspring. One of the most critical aspects of fetal programming involves adequate nutrition, or lack . . .

Continue reading Nutritional Considerations Going into Calving

Don’t overlook nutritional needs of 2-year-old cows

– Bill Halfman, Agriculture Agent, Monroe County, Wisconsin

If the young cows are left in with the rest of the herd they can be pushed away and not have sufficient access to feed.

A frequently heard recommendation for beef farms is to separate the 2-year-olds and thin cows from the main herd during the winter-feeding period. Three-year-olds may also benefit from being in this group because they are still growing. This is important every year, and likely even more important during years of limited forage resources.

For the first time in their lives, 2-year-old heifers have a lot going on over the spring and summer when they calve for the first time. They are feeding a calf and recovering from calving. They also need to rebreed within 80 to 85 days of calving to get on a 12-month calving interval and remain valuable members of the herd.

Amid all these events, they are still growing themselves. Their rumen capacity is lower than . . .

Continue reading Don’t overlook nutritional needs of 2-year-old cows

How much vomitoxin is too much for feedlot cattle?

Jerad Jaborek, Michigan State University Extension

Fusarium graminearum is one of the most common species responsible for producing vomitoxin.

The weather Michigan experienced in 2023 was quite different from the norm and created an ideal environment for fungi that can produce mycotoxins. In the Thumb region, a lack of rain and drought was experienced during the early summer followed by plenty of rain during late summer months. Weather summary data collected from weather stations in Richville/Frankenmuth and Lapeer areas, reported an average temperature of 66 degrees Fahrenheit, average humidity of 75 to 78%, monthly rainfall of 4.5 to 5.9 inches, and 11 to 13 days of rain in the month of August. The weather conditions experienced were prime for fungal and mold growth during the silking stage of corn development.

Fusarium species of mold prefer temperatures of 69 F or less with a relative humidity over 70%. Fusarium graminearum being one of the most common species responsible for producing vomitoxin and responsible for gibberella ear and stalk rot of corn. Vomitoxin, also known as deoxynivalenol (DON) is a type B trichothecene (i.e., mycotoxin) that can occur in grains such as corn, wheat, barley, oats and rye, as well as others.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set advisory levels for DON concentration allowable in grains allowed for human food consumption or animal feed consumption. The FDA has set advisory levels at . . .

Continue reading How much vomitoxin is too much for feedlot cattle?

Caring for Beef Cattle in Winter Months

Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension, Perry County (originally published in Ohio Farmer on-line)

To help ensure a successful calving season, Body Condition Scoring has heightened significance in Ohio’s winter care regimen.

Ohio Winters can be a challenge, especially for those with livestock. Here’s a short list of five management tips to keep in mind as we prepare to manage cattle through another Winter.

Nutrition Management for Ohio Winters: Ohio’s varying winter conditions of mud to snow and back to mud, we need to be prepared for proper nutrition management for cattle. There have been numerous research studies that have shown the effects of extreme cold, mud, and wind. Producers will need to monitor and adjust feed regimens by incorporating high-quality forages rich in nutrients. Supplemental feed with a careful balance of protein and energy becomes essential to meet the increased caloric demands during colder months. This strategy ensures that Continue reading

Evaluation of condensed algal residue solubles as an ingredient in cattle finishing diets and the effects on digestibility and fatty acid flow

C. Gibbons, B. M. Boyd, H. C. Wilson,  J. W. Wilson,  K. H. Wilke, G. E. Erickson, and A. K. Watson

Applied Animal Science. 2023. 39:133–145

Cattle are tremendous up cyclers, and by-products such as wet distillers grains, sugar beet pulp, soyhulls, cottonseed hulls  and many others and have successfully and economically added to their diets. The marine microalgae production industry is another industry in need of an outlet for a by-product.

Marine microalgae have the ability to harvest sugars and carbon dioxide converting them into metabolites such as n-3 fatty acids. Because of this, marine microalgae have been proposed as a sustainable solution for reducing pressure on wild-caught aquaculture.  Production of algae oil from these algae results in a by-product known as condensed algae residue solubles (CARS).  As production of CARS increases, availability of up cycling increases.

Four hundred and predominately Angus, British crossbred steers were fed for 148 days.  Treatments were designed with 3 inclusion levels of CARS at 0, 2.5, and 5% of the diet.

Carcass-adjusted final Body weight, average daily gain, and feed efficiency increased with CARS inclusion at 2.5% of diet dry matter.  However, feedlot performance decreased when CARS was 5% of diet dry matter.

Sustaining Optimal Body Condition from Fall Calving to Breeding Season in Ohio’s Cattle Farms

Kate Hornyak, OSU Extension Program Coordinator, Delaware County

Body condition scoring now can help insure a successful calving season next fall.

Maintaining optimal body condition in cattle from fall calving through to the breeding season is pivotal for the success of any beef operation. In Ohio, with its unique climate and agricultural landscape, this task can present unique challenges and opportunities. This article explores comprehensive strategies tailored to Ohio’s environment, helping cattle producers ensure their herds are in peak condition, promoting reproductive success and overall herd vitality.

During the fall, fluctuating temperatures and early frosts can impact the availability and quality of pasture for grazing, necessitating the need for supplementary feeding. Farmers must be vigilant to ensure that cattle have access to adequate nutrition as natural forage sources diminish. Additionally, wet conditions and heavy rainfall can lead to muddy and unsanitary living conditions, increasing the risk of disease and foot problems in cattle.

As winter arrives, the challenges intensify with the onset of freezing temperatures, snow, and ice. Cattle require extra energy to maintain body heat in cold weather, and farmers must Continue reading