Effect of Energy and Protein Supplementation on Body Condition Score and Reproduction

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Feeding a balanced diet to beef females in the last trimester of pregnancy through the breeding season is critical. Nutritional demands increase from early gestation to lactation. Reproduction has low priority among partitioning of nutrients for the subsequent pregnancy. Consequently, thin cows at calving typically remain thin because excess energy in the diet is directed to milk production first.

The common theme is, at least for spring-calving cows, body condition score at calving is related to postpartum interval and rebreeding performance. Plane of nutrition the last 50 to 60 days before calving affects postpartum interval.  It is a challenge to increase body condition after calving or elicit a reproductive response to high energy intake in postpartum beef females.

Excessive protein and energy in the diet of beef females can result in reduced conception rates and increased feed costs. Excessive dietary nutrients during the last trimester of pregnancy may negatively influence Continue reading

The Goal: Feed Less, Graze More

– Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

Winter; time to catch up on reading and sharpening the pencil and mind.

I often talk about upcoming grazing conferences this time of year. Right now, meetings in person are scarce and perhaps rightly so. I still encourage you to continue learning whether it’s from watching YouTube videos, reading books or articles, or attending a virtual meeting or conference.

It is also the time of year when I start thinking more about finding a comfortable chair, a warm blanket and some good reading material — especially when the snow flurries start. Winter is a great time for me to catch up on reading after checking on livestock in the cold, as long as I don’t get too warm and nod off. But, that said, winter chores still must be done! I’m never mentally prepared for winter, but that won’t stop it from happening. What’s a perfect winter to me? It includes stockpiled forages lasting for as long as possible, dry or frozen ground and as little hay needed to be fed.

You certainly can’t control the weather. You need to instead learn how to Continue reading

Body Condition Scoring, Beef Cow Nutrition and Reproduction

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Net calf crop or number of calves weaned per cow exposed is an important calculation for commercial cow-calf producers.  A 9-point system is commonly used to condition score beef cows. The importance of body condition at calving on subsequent reproductive performance has been documented extensively.   Cows should have an optimum Body Condition Score (BCS) of 5 to 6 at calving that should be maintained through breeding to ensure optimal reproductive performance. The most important factor influencing pregnancy rate in beef females is body energy reserves at calving.  In addition, low energy intake before calving appears to be the major culprit to reduced reproductive performance during the subsequent breeding season.   Body condition score is a better indicator of the nutritional program than is body weight.

Calving Interval and Profitability: One of the major constraints in the improvement of reproductive efficiency of beef cows is the postpartum interval (PPI), defined as the period from calving until cows resume estrus activity. Calving interval, defined as the period between the birth of one calf until the birth of the next calf, is significantly affected by the postpartum interval. If a cow is to calve on a 365-day interval, with a 283-day gestation length, she has to conceive within 82 days of calving. It takes approximately 40 days for the uterus of a well managed cow to recover after calving, and this leaves a 42-day window in which to conceive. Cows that Continue reading

Grouping the Cowherd for Winter Feeding

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Young-bred heifers and young cows that have just weaned their first calf should be fed separately from the mature cows in the herd. The young animals are smaller, still growing, and are replacing their temporary teeth. They may be pushed away from feed by cows in their prime and settle for what hay is left and is likely of lower higher quality. The results of feeding young stock with the main cowherd is thin heifers and maybe overfed cows.

Older cows that are kept for being exceptional producers (or are just special to the cattle producer) merit some special attention. Consider feeding them with the younger heifers and cows. Keep a close eye on this groups because they may be missing some teeth and decline in body condition.

Grouping the herd according to fall body condition could allow for thinner cows to catch up with cows are already in adequate condition. Admittedly, wintering facilities and number of feeding areas can limit the degree of grouping of cows. Grouping cows will also allow you to ask the question, “which cows are my easy keepers and which cows are my hard keepers?”

Watch Vomitoxin Levels in Feed

Erika Lyon, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Ohio State University Extension

Reports from the field suggest that vomitoxin may be higher near tree lines around the perimeter of corn fields. Figure 1. Gibberella ear rot. Photo by the Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org

High vomitoxin levels are leading to the rejection of some corn at grain elevators this year. Vomitoxin detected in corn so far is enough that at some elevators, trucks are not permitted to leave scales until a vomitoxin quick test is completed. One central Ohio elevator has been rejecting corn at 5 ppm, with estimates of 10% of corn being rejected this season. The average level of vomitoxin in corn passing through central Ohio elevators is estimated at 2 ppm. What exactly does this mean for livestock owners who use this corn as a source of feed?

Vomitoxin, or deoxynivalenol (DON), is a secondary metabolite or mycotoxin produced by Fusarium molds that can cause health and productivity issues in livestock. The common source of DON in corn is the species F. graminearum, which is also occurs in other small grains such as wheat, barley and oats. Some livestock species, such as swine, are more sensitive to DON, while ruminants can typically transform the toxin into a less toxic product as it passes through their digestive tract (due to their rumen microbes). However, Continue reading

Reducing Winter Feed Costs

Clif Little, OSU Extension Agriculture Natural Resources, Guernsey County (this article was originally appeared in Farm and Dairy)

Stockpiled fescue with small round bales can be utilized for winter strip grazing. Photo by Clif Little

Winter feed represents one of the largest components of annual cow cost. Approximately seventy five percent of the annual feed cost for cattle is winter feed. One way to increase the profit potential in the cow herd is to reduce this cost by extending the grazing season.

For example, a 1500-pound mature cow will consume approximately 38 pounds of hay per day. If that hay sells for $50 per ton, then her feed cost is ($50 divided by 2000 pounds) times 38 pounds per day = $.95 cents per day.

In a three-year study conducted by OSU researchers Dr. Steven Loerch and Dr. Dave Barker they looked at the cost of extending the grazing season, feeding hay and limit-feeding concentrates. Their results indicated that the average winter feed cost per cow per day over the 112 day feeding period for stockpiled pasture system was Continue reading

Adding Value to Cull Cows

Stephen Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Approximately 10 to 20 percent of the returns to a cow-calf operation are from selling cull cows in the fall. There are four factors that need to be considered to obtain profit from feeding cull cows. First, the cows have to be thin but healthy. Second, the buy/sell margin should be positive. Third, cost of gain should be relatively cheap. The odds of a profit are increased whenever these three conditions are present. The final requirement needed involves financial solvency. Only producers that can absorb financial risk should feed cull cows for short time periods.

Factor 1: Cows Should Be Thin But Healthy

Cows often lose up to 20 percent of their weight during periods of under-nutrition. Cows culled during a drought may have even greater weight losses. Thin cows offer an opportunity to add weight rapidly through compensatory gain. Healthy, thin cows gain weight faster than normal condition cows. Compensatory gain from thin cows should result in the highest conversion rate and gain, thus reducing the cost of gain.

Some thin cull cows are young and still growing. Most have weaned a calf and are thin due to the demands of lactation. However, some thin cows may not be able to return to slaughter cow composition for several reasons. Cows that have lung damage may appear thin and unthrifty. Cows with heavy Continue reading

Could early weaning increase your profits?

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator (originally published in the Ohio Farmer)

Early weaning can reduce daily forage consumption between 25 and 40%.

Over the last couple of years, making hay in a timely manner has been nearly impossible.  There just were not 3- or 4-day windows of dry weather without water standing in the fields.  The result was a lot of poor-quality hay resulting in poor body condition scores of cows coming out of the winter.  This year, hay production has started out much better for most people.  We had a couple nice dry periods in late May and early June that allowed baling of good quality hay.  The issue this year is quantity.  Many people are reporting reductions of 30 to 50% in tonnage of first cutting hay.  There are probably two factors that are causing this.  First the cold weather and numerous frost and freeze events in April and May slowed the hay down growth.  Much of the alfalfa was at a bud stage on the first of June instead of flowering.  This likely helped the quality but hurt the quantity.  The second factor is that we simply would expect less hay when it is baled at the beginning of June than the end of June.  Time will tell whether the season long hay production remains low or if second and third cuttings make up the difference.

It is never too early to plan.  There are options to consider to be sure enough forage will be available for the winter.  This comes down to either Continue reading

Supplementing to Stretch Pastures

– Jeff Lehmkuhler, PhD, PAS Associate Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Drought continues to impact the high plains area stretching down to the pan handle of Texas. The dry conditions will continue to impact pastures potentially lowering beef cattle numbers at year’s end. The recent high temperatures and limited rain will dry out pastures and limit forage regrowth on recently cut hay fields here in the Commonwealth. As forage growth slows, supplementation may be needed to provide beef cattle adequate levels of nutrients to support target production levels and limit condition loss of lactating cows.

Fibrous coproduct feedstuffs that are low in starch but high digestible fiber work well for supplementingcattle on a high forage diet. Soybean hulls, corn gluten feed, beet pulp, distillers grains, wheat midds, and rice bran are a few commonly available feedstuffs that would be lower in starch and high digestible fiber. These feedstuffs would be higher in available energy than most pasture forages that are going or already dormant. Depending on the maturity and digestibility of the forages, supplements could provide twice as much energy on a dry weight basis. Therefore, supplementation would need to be limited and not offered free-choice to avoid over conditioning as well as to avoid digestive upsets.

Cottonseed hulls are lower in digestible energy than the supplements listed above and most cool-season forages. Cottonseed hulls would be deemed as more of a forage replacement than a supplement. The crude protein value is Continue reading