Steelman: Cow and calf management

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Suggestions For Both Groups of Cows
* Dry beef cows will need a diet that is at least 7% crude protein in the middle third of pregnancy and 9% protein in the last third of pregnancy. Pregnant yearling heifers will need a diet that is at least 11 to 12% protein, and heifers and mature cows nursing calves will need a diet that contains at least 11% protein. Remember "7 come 11" as a rule of thumb.

* If heifers and young cows are not separated from older cattle, they may be pushed aside when given supplemental feeds and they may not receive the protein or energy they require.

* If producers need to purchase hay or other feed resources, do it soon because it will be more expensive as the winter progresses.

* Approximately 2.25-2.50 tons of good quality hay will be needed to winter one animal unit (1,000 lbs.) for 150 days. If practices are not followed to reduce waste during feeding, this can increase from 2.9 -3.3 tons of hay.

* Corn, corn gluten, and soy hulls are alternative feeds to substitute for forage. Consider the cost of transportation, storage as well as feeding methods of these feeds.

* When purchasing hay, if possible buy it based on weight. Results from "hay days" have shown that beef producers do a "poor job" of estimating weight of large round bales.

* With hay purchase and that on-hand, have a forage test done on both sources.

* Treat cattle that will remain in the herd for both external and internal parasites. The effect of parasites will be greater during the winter.

* Soybean meal is an excellent protein source with low-quality forages, because approximately 80 percent of the soybean meal is degraded in the rumen, and the rumen microbial population must be given a source of nitrogen so that they can reproduce, before they can digest the low-protein forage.

* If producers are using corn stover as the main source of forage, it will be necessary to supplement a high-energy feed to the lactating cows such as dried distiller's grains, corn gluten feed, or pelleted soybean hulls in order to keep the animals in the proper body condition.

* If labor is an issue, and it is not feasible to feed protein supplements daily, it might be appropriate to use protein tubs for supplementation with low-protein feeds such as straw, corn stover or soybean stubble. However, expect to pay more for the same amount of protein if a soybean meal and distillers dried grain combination had been used.

* Feeding low-quality feeds that are low in crude protein, below 7 percent, will result in reduced digestion and possible rumen compaction. Addition of protein supplementation to the ration will improve the digestibility of poor quality forages.

* Protein supplements can be fed on alternate days if an adequate amount is provided to meet the nutritional requirement for the two days. UT research also shows that mature beef cows can be fed hay every other day when provided an adequate amount. Alternate day feedings will save labor and reduce costs but observation time of the cows is reduced.

Candy Fed to Cattle
Because they are ruminants, cattle can consume chocolate bars, gummy worms, ice cream sprinkles, marshmallows, bits of hard candy and even powdered hot chocolate mix.

Cows have been fed candies and other byproducts for decades. However, feeding candy to cows has become a more popular practice in recent years with the rising price of corn.

Producers are considering purchasing the obscure market for cast-off feed ingredients. Cut-rate byproducts of dubious value for human consumption seem to make fine feed for cows. While corn goes for about $315 a ton, ice-cream sprinkles can be had for as little as $160 a ton. A word of caution, encourage producers to calculate the available supply, storage, dry matter content and the value of the nutrient given to the cow.

Source: November 17, 2014.

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