Steelman: Cattle tips

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Some parts of the state are experiencing some level of drought. Most intense is in the
Eastern part of the state. The drought covers a lot of the country and has impacted the beef industry for several years.

Late Winter-Early Spring Calving Herds
Producers should consider weaning the calf crop. There are several reasons and the primary one is the lack of availability of forage to maintain performance. The second reason is that the calves can be weaned, put on a higher quality feed and make excellent gains and do it economically compared to "running" with their dams. Weaning and feeding the calves is a big step in the "preconditioning" process and along with a health program. It will "add value" if marketed in an alliance or a feeder calf sale where a large number of "like kind" are marketed. The third is the dry cows can get along well on lower quality forage (if available) and gain both weight and condition and will experience improved reproductive performance.
Research with dams of calves weaned at 170 days of age (5 months) showed that the dams picked up 100-125 lb. over days compared those still suckling calves. This amount of weight gain could improve body condition scores (BCS) scores from 1.2 to 1.5. It takes about 82-85 lb. of gain to improve BCS score in beef cows. This might be a challenge under drought conditions.
First calf heifers will be negatively affected by the limited forage supply and may need to be fed an energy supplement in order to regain the condition lost. If the heifers were selected for increased milk production; this will create greater stress on the young females than the older, mature cows.
Open cows are a "big expense" and are "profit takers." They are expensive to maintain and produce no return unless culled and marketed. Pregnancy and culling open cows will pay more this year than ever before. Maintaining one open cow in the herd for a year will take the profit of 2.50 other cows.
Producers should be knowledgeable about the performance of the cows in their herd to make plans to cull and market cows that are less productive and have physical problems.
Due to the forage supply, let the open cows "ride". Definitely cull those cows that are likely to develop physical problems and will experience both price and performance reduction throughout their remaining life.
A suggested procedure for culling cows follows. Cull cows that have physical problems such as feet and legs, udder and eye problems. The second tier would include open females. The third culling criteria would be those cows with poor production records. Cows with poor disposition should also be candidates for culling. These are in no order of hierarchy.

Late Fall Early-Winter Calving Herds
These cows should be dry and pregnant and have the lowest feed requirement than during any other time in their production cycle. Their nutrient needs are minimal and if forage is available they can get along well and gain both weight and body condition. They can do well on the dry pasture.
Wean calves in pens that have good fences. Lack of fencing in most cow-calf operations limit weaning. If not already completed, calves from these herds should be marketed within the next thirty days.
Are the pregnant cows in the appropriate body condition for their next calving? Mature cows should be in at least a BCS of 5 and first-calf heifers in a BCS of 6. With the current drought situation, their BCS might be lower than what is needed to ensure profitable reproductive performance in subsequent years.

Suggestions for Both Calving Groups
Then environment has been extremely hot and the forecasts are for dry and warm weather to continue. Both groups of cows will be affected by the weather.
Evaluate the potential for "stockpiling" fescue for fall and early winter grazing. Stockpiling should be done between August 15 and September 15 for fall grazing. The big factor in the success of stockpiling is adequate moisture. Do not expect plants to grow without water.
Cattle need a source of clean drinking water. Cool water aids in keeping the animal's internal temperature in a range to ensure optimum production.


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Bruce Steelman, drought
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