Forage Shortage: Considering Early Weaning

Garth Ruff, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension, Henry County (originally published in Ohio’s Country Journal on-line)

Less than ideal conditions have led to forage shortages throughout the Midwest. Photo: Ohio’s Country Journal

Low hay inventory this past winter combined with poor pasture stands due to excessive moisture have led to a greater proportion of thin beef cows both across the countryside and on the cull market. As we evaluate the toll that this past winter took on forage stands, especially alfalfa, hay is projected to be in short supply as we proceed into next winter as well.

For a beef cow to be efficient and profitable, we must meet her nutritional requirements for maintenance in addition to those for reproduction and lactation. As a reminder, the hierarchy of nutrient use is as follows: Maintenance, Development, Growth, Lactation, Reproduction, Fattening. This applies to all nutrient categories, not just to energy alone. As we conclude calving season, we are entering the most challenging time in production cycle when it comes to providing adequate nutrition. If the cow does not intake enough nutrients and is in suboptimal body condition at calving (BCS < 5), reproduction is the first to fail. With that in mind, one strategy available to minimize body condition and reproductive losses when forage is in short supply is to early wean calves.

Early weaning is certainly not a new concept and is one that is often employed when Continue reading

Body Condition Score and Getting Thin Cows to Rebreed

– Travis Mulliniks, UNL Beef Cattle Nutritionist, Range Production Systems

During the production year, livestock are faced with dynamic changes in nutritional and environmental stressors that create nutritional challenges.  The last year for many livestock producer have been one of those very challenging years. Many parts of Nebraska experienced high, early spring rainfall and tremendous forage growth, resulting in early maturing and low-quality forages.  This created a situation that many cows were thinner than normal years at weaning.  We coupled that with high moisture, extreme cold, blizzards, and flooding in last few months.  The end result has been really thin cows.

Body condition scoring (BCS) is an effective management tool to estimate the energy reserves of a cow.  If monitored multiple times across the production year, BCS is a good indicator of direction of body weight change.  Body condition score of beef cows at the time of calving has the greatest impact on subsequent rebreeding performance (Table 1). Traditional recommendations suggest cows need to be nutritionally managed at a BCS 5 or greater at breeding for optimal reproductive performance. However, the response is not absolute; some cows are capable of Continue reading

Pre-breeding Nutrition Considerations for Cows That Have Struggled This Winter

– Katy Lippolis, Iowa State Extension Cow-calf Specialist

While spring may finally be here, harsh weather conditions over the winter, and cold and wet spring storms have taken a toll on late gestation and early lactation cows. Some have depleted body stores to make up for the cold weather, so making sure those cows bounce back prior to breeding is crucial to maintaining pregnancy rates.

There are many considerations and management strategies we can utilize to Continue reading

The Great 2019 Hay Debate . . . Quality or Quantity?

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

If there was ever a year to focus on hay quality over quantity, weather permitting, this has to be it! Most of the reasons should be obvious. Perhaps a few are less so. However, with some aggressive planning and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, perhaps we can have both quality and quantity this year. Following are some points to consider.

Generally speaking, we’re out of quality hay in Ohio. The condition of our cows confirms it, the prices of hay at auction markets confirm it, and laboratory forage analysis confirms it. Not only was 2018 a challenging year for forage harvest, but we started that year with less inventory. Last spring in their hay stocks report, USDA NASS reported hay inventory on Ohio farms on May 1, 2018 was down 33% from that same time in 2017.

As we’re now nearing the end of April, cows need feed and to add insult to injury, forages have been slow to get started this spring. It’s safe to assume first cutting hay will likely be short due to a late spring start of growth. Regardless, hay needs to come off in a timely fashion this year.

The first reason is Continue reading

Time for Some “Defensive Driving”

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

The term “defensive driving” may seem like an odd choice of words to start an article about beef cattle. Stay with me on this one. When I think about defensive driving, I think about watching out for factors such as the surrounding traffic, weather conditions, time of day, driver fatigue, etc. and how they may affect your ability to travel safely from point A to point B. How does this concept relate to beef cattle production?

As we are in the midst of changing both weather and production seasons, now is the time to be analyzing your animals and the environmental conditions around them to make important management decisions that can impact your operation for the short- and long-term. Most of you are painfully aware that the beef herd has faced many challenges through the winter of 2018-2019. As we move into spring with green grass and warmer temperatures, do not get lulled into a false sense of security that any problems that we have been experiencing are going to magically disappear.

We fully realize the current situation. We have experienced months of cold, wet conditions that have resulted in excessive amounts of mud. Unless you have had a laboratory analysis of the forages fed your herd through the winter, we have to assume that forage quality of hay supplies is sub-par. Excessive moisture in the spring and early summer of 2018 simply did not allow for the timely harvest of forages to generate high quality feed. Based on my observations and conversations I have had with producers, veterinarians, and other industry representatives, the weather and feed quality has resulted in large numbers of Continue reading

Is Creep Feeding Beef Calves Profitable?

– Devin Broadhead And Matt Stockton, University Of Nebraska Extension

For creep feeding to be profitable, the costs of the added weight gain must be less than the value of that gain. (Wyatt Bechtel)

Successful beef calf producers continually search for ways to improve their operation and bottom-line. Creep feeding calves to increase their market weight is one strategy. To be profitable, the costs of the added weight gain must be less than the value of that gain. Many factors contribute to a calf’s weaning weight, i.e. nutrition, genetics, age at weaning, environmental conditions and so forth. A three-year study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory (GSL) using spring calving cows tested the effects of creep feeding on calf weaning weight and productivity. This report uses biological information in an economic analysis to determine profitability during the time of the study.

Conceptually, creep feeding provides increased nutrition to growing calves, which increases their weight at weaning. More pounds of calf to sell at weaning increases revenue, but does it increase profit? Past research has shown that supplementation (creep feeding) directly to growing calves significantly effects their Continue reading

The Impact of Nutrition on Reproduction

During the Ohio Beef School webinar last month, Dr. Alvaro Garcia Guerra discussed the challenges of getting cows and heifers bred, regardless if by artificial insemination or natural service. In particular Dr. Guerra offered insight into the impacts of nutrition on heifer development and conception rates of heifers, as well as the impact nutrition has on days to return to estrus and conception rates of lactating females.

That presentation, The Impact of Nutrition on Reproduction, is embedded below:

What To Do When Calves Are Born Weak

– Michelle Arnold, DVM, Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

“Weak Calf Syndrome” is a term applied to any calf born alive but is slow to stand and may or may not attempt to nurse. Calves born to dams that experience weight loss during the final 50-60 days of gestation are at high risk of being weak. An energy deficient diet fed to late gestation cows leads to prolonged labor, dystocia (difficult birth), poor quality and quantity of colostrum and decreased milk production. Many of the newborn calves presented to the UKVDL in recent weeks for necropsy have had no milk within the digestive tract. With excellent management, some weak calves will survive but most will die shortly after birth. If they survive, many experience sickness, decreased growth rates and lower weaning weights. The following is a summary of known factors involved in weak calf syndrome and how to best Continue reading

Ohio Beef School Podcasts Released

To suggest the past year has been a challenge for Ohio’s cattlemen is, at best, an understatement. The weather made it nearly impossible throughout 2018 to harvest high quality forage in a timely fashion, the constantly muddy conditions caused animals to utilize more energy than normal, and even though temperatures were moderate during much of the fall, cows with a constantly wet hair coat were expending more energy than normal. Then, as late January evolved into February, in many cases mud was matting down the winter coats of cattle reducing their hair’s insulating properties, thus causing them to utilize even more energy in cold weather.

In combination, this created potential for the “perfect storm” that reportedly is resulting in a challenging calving season in parts of Ohio, as well as concern for conception rates as we move into the subsequent breeding season.

Taking all those concerns into account, the 2019 Ohio Beef School consisted of a single ‘live’ webinar on February 5th that featured three different speakers. Collectively, the overall theme of Beef School was Winter Management of the Cow Herd to Insure a Productive 2019. Each of the Beef School’s approximately 30 minute presentations are embedded below under the Continue reading

This Winter Has Been Tough on Cows!

Mark Landefeld, OSU Extension Agriculture Educator, Monroe County

To add on too the great nutrition article in last week’s newsletter, I want to mention a resource available for producers to help monitor their cow’s body condition score. An Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet may be found at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/anr-54.

Dr. Boyles, last week, gave us all the nuts and bolts for providing the necessary energy and protein to fulfill the cow’s nutritional needs. However, we should also monitor our livestock’s body condition scores to insure the feed being provided coincides with what we see in our livestock’s physical appearance.

Timid animals may not always get enough nutrients even though we are providing them. Our calculations could be wrong also. We hear about so many 1000-1200 pound cows, but there are very few of them at my place. Of my mature cows, more will tip the scale over Continue reading