Feeding for breeding | TSLN.com

Feeding for breeding

Kenny Barrett Jr., DVM, MS

Feeding cows is a large expense and winter feed costs account for greater than half the variation in profitability between cow-calf producers. Nutrition of the breeding female is perhaps the most important aspect of beef production. We focus a great deal of effort managing grass and forage availability all through the growing season. Drought years pose a special challenge of trying to maintain herd numbers while decreasing metabolic demands. Summer brings haying and producers spend a great deal of time and money doing diesel doughnuts. It is a continuous circle putting the random swords of grass and legumes in neat little rolls and bales only to be scientifically allotted and again scattered before the hungry mouths in the cold months that follow. The most critical time to manage cow nutrition is from 60 days prior to calving through breeding.

In our practice in western South Dakota, we tell producers the body condition score at calving determines the rebreeding success and income for the next year. This is the last chance to make sure your cows are on the correct plain of nutrition. At this point cows should be in a condition score 5 to 6. The onset of lactation will create a huge swing in metabolic demands on the cow and especially the two-year-old heifer. Heifers are still growing which further increases their nutritional needs. A 285-day gestation only leaves an 80 day period for females to rebreed in order to calve on a yearly basis. Peak energy demand occurs with peak lactation, approximately 60 days after calving. Range females calving in poor condition have limited success breeding in a timely manner. Successful early breeding requires the dating divas to be in a positive energy balance.

The two most important nutrients in any given diet are protein and energy. These two nutrients work in concert with each other. Performance is dictated by the nutrient that is the most deficient. Some ranchers in our region have ample access to irrigated hay ground and grow alfalfa. Alfalfa based diets are more than adequate in protein. In fact, excess protein causes the cow to expend energy to break down the amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Other producers in our area supplement protein while their herds graze the protein deficient dormant grass. Young females tend to require energy supplementation, which is more involved than feeding five pounds of corn per head per day. Energy sources that blend with forage based diets tend to achieve better results.

This is the most important time to provide supplemental minerals. Calcium and phosphorus need to be in a ratio of about 2:1. Magnesium should be a moderate level. Feeding moderate levels of magnesium over a longer period of time helps ensure adequate mineral consumption. Producers often notice poor or variable consumption of “High Mag” mineral supplements due to their bitter taste. Imbalance in the calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium levels lead to milk fever and grass tetany. Trace mineral supplementation is extremely complex. Exact requirements are difficult to pinpoint and require site-specific analysis of feed and water. Within the 100+ mile radius of our practice area we have varying levels of trace mineral interactions and tie-ups. These interactions can be specific to a drainage area or a more generalized region. They range in severity from minimal to extreme even within the operations in our practice. Interactions stem from mineral content of not only forage and feed but also deep wells and surface water. Choosing the optimal trace mineral is challenging. Producers should work with a veterinarian to design a cost effective supplementation strategy and monitoring system. Trace mineral supplementation prior to calving and through breeding will help boost reproductive success and calf vigor.

Everyday ranchers are faced with some level of uncertainty. Many aspects of animal agriculture are difficult to manage at best. Nutrition is manageable and extremely important from 60 days prior to calving through breeding. The nutrition at this time sets the stage for most production parameters. Nutrients of key importance include protein, energy, and minerals. Efforts and investments spent analyzing feeds and designing a balanced ration can reduce feed costs, enhance herd reproduction, and ensure optimal calf growth and health. Each rancher faces unique challenges and solutions. Working with a veterinarian will help ensure your herd is on the right track.

Feeding cows is a large expense and winter feed costs account for greater than half the variation in profitability between cow-calf producers. Nutrition of the breeding female is perhaps the most important aspect of beef production. We focus a great deal of effort managing grass and forage availability all through the growing season. Drought years pose a special challenge of trying to maintain herd numbers while decreasing metabolic demands. Summer brings haying and producers spend a great deal of time and money doing diesel doughnuts. It is a continuous circle putting the random swords of grass and legumes in neat little rolls and bales only to be scientifically allotted and again scattered before the hungry mouths in the cold months that follow. The most critical time to manage cow nutrition is from 60 days prior to calving through breeding.

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In our practice in western South Dakota, we tell producers the body condition score at calving determines the rebreeding success and income for the next year. This is the last chance to make sure your cows are on the correct plain of nutrition. At this point cows should be in a condition score 5 to 6. The onset of lactation will create a huge swing in metabolic demands on the cow and especially the two-year-old heifer. Heifers are still growing which further increases their nutritional needs. A 285-day gestation only leaves an 80 day period for females to rebreed in order to calve on a yearly basis. Peak energy demand occurs with peak lactation, approximately 60 days after calving. Range females calving in poor condition have limited success breeding in a timely manner. Successful early breeding requires the dating divas to be in a positive energy balance.

The two most important nutrients in any given diet are protein and energy. These two nutrients work in concert with each other. Performance is dictated by the nutrient that is the most deficient. Some ranchers in our region have ample access to irrigated hay ground and grow alfalfa. Alfalfa based diets are more than adequate in protein. In fact, excess protein causes the cow to expend energy to break down the amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Other producers in our area supplement protein while their herds graze the protein deficient dormant grass. Young females tend to require energy supplementation, which is more involved than feeding five pounds of corn per head per day. Energy sources that blend with forage based diets tend to achieve better results.

This is the most important time to provide supplemental minerals. Calcium and phosphorus need to be in a ratio of about 2:1. Magnesium should be a moderate level. Feeding moderate levels of magnesium over a longer period of time helps ensure adequate mineral consumption. Producers often notice poor or variable consumption of “High Mag” mineral supplements due to their bitter taste. Imbalance in the calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium levels lead to milk fever and grass tetany. Trace mineral supplementation is extremely complex. Exact requirements are difficult to pinpoint and require site-specific analysis of feed and water. Within the 100+ mile radius of our practice area we have varying levels of trace mineral interactions and tie-ups. These interactions can be specific to a drainage area or a more generalized region. They range in severity from minimal to extreme even within the operations in our practice. Interactions stem from mineral content of not only forage and feed but also deep wells and surface water. Choosing the optimal trace mineral is challenging. Producers should work with a veterinarian to design a cost effective supplementation strategy and monitoring system. Trace mineral supplementation prior to calving and through breeding will help boost reproductive success and calf vigor.

Everyday ranchers are faced with some level of uncertainty. Many aspects of animal agriculture are difficult to manage at best. Nutrition is manageable and extremely important from 60 days prior to calving through breeding. The nutrition at this time sets the stage for most production parameters. Nutrients of key importance include protein, energy, and minerals. Efforts and investments spent analyzing feeds and designing a balanced ration can reduce feed costs, enhance herd reproduction, and ensure optimal calf growth and health. Each rancher faces unique challenges and solutions. Working with a veterinarian will help ensure your herd is on the right track.

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