- If not already done, calves from these cows should be marketed. Encourage producers to cooperatively market feeder calves.
- These cows should be pregnant. Their nutrient needs are minimal and they can be maintained on lower quality pasture if in a "good" (BCS of 5-6) body condition. Will cows be in appropriate body condition for calving? Body condition score these cows now. Mature cows should be in at least a BCS of 5 and first-calf heifers in a BCS of 6.
Cows with a BCS of 4 or less should be separated and fed to reach the desired BCS of 5 prior to calving. Time is short.
Both Groups of Cows
- When available, an alternative source of grazing might be harvested hay fields. Lots of forage is left around the edge of the fields as well as from possible regrowth. Regrowth is a high quality feed on which both the calves and cows will do well. Check for toxic plants.
- It may be too late for lots of producers, but hay waste can be minimized by proper storage. Wasted and spoiled hay drives up feed cost. Research conducted at UT and other universities, as well as demonstrations done by several Extension agents across the state, have shown that up to 35% of the hay is wasted when stored on the ground and uncovered. With the cost, don't waste hay.
- Inventory the winter feed supply. This needs to be done in time to make adjustments in cattle numbers and/or feed resources.
- Be sure working pens or lots where cattle will be confined are free of Perrila mint. We take 2-3 calls a year on this topic. This plant is highly toxic to cattle. When cattle are confined to areas where Perrila mint is available, they will consume it out of boredom, not hunger. Also, make sure that the working facilities are in a good state of repair before the fall working. Now would be a good time to repair them.
- If possible nitrate build up in forages, check for nitrate levels before feeding. Several cattle's deaths will occur this fall due to nitrate toxicity.
- Avoid unnecessary heat stress, work or haul cattle in the early morning.
- Be sure to remove fly tags during fall working to reduce buildup of resistance. Provide an appropriate mineral supplement at all times.
Are Number of Hay Rings Adequate for Winter Feeding?
The use of hay feeding rings to limit cattle's access to hay reduces the loss and waste of hay allocated to cows. One item that many cow calf producers overlook in using rings are the spaces available around the ring. Most rings will have a number of spaces for approximately 10 cows. With a 30 cow herd, what happens to those other 20 when it comes to having access to the hay? As anticipated, the stronger, more aggressive cows will be the first at "the table" and will choose to consume an unlimited amount as well as the higher quality forage. The older, more timid and younger cattle will have to eat what is left or go hungry. Generally, what is left will be of lower quality.
To more adequately meet the nutrient needs of the complete herd, cow calf producers should purchase extra rings and move to areas away from the more aggressive cattle to help ensure adequate feed intake. For example, consider the assumption of 30 cows, three hay rings would be needed to ensure that each cow in the herd will have the opportunity to consume the hay needed.