It might seem as though cattle producers are better prepared for this winter nutritionally than they were a year ago… but it pays to check.
“Always test your hay,” Dr. Tom Troxel, associate head-animal science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor. “There was a lot of hay raised and baled this spring; a lot of that hay was baled in between rainstorms, and we really wonder about the quality of the hay, the crude protein and the TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients). I think that the producers would do themselves a great favor by having their hay tested for quality, because the hay may not be as good as they think it is.”
When the quality of the hay has been assessed, the better quality hay should go to the cows with the highest nutrient requirements as you proceed through the winter. For fall calvers the peak milk production is usually in November, so those cows need to receive good quality nutrition in order to maintain their body condition as they get ready to rebreed around the last few weeks of the year.
If you have a spring calving herd, of course, it’s also important to maintain the body condition of cows, and to deworm them before they calve in February or March. Troxel recommended the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He said, “It’s been shown that if you deworm those cows prior to calving, they milk better, their calves pick up fewer worms when they’re grazing next spring, and there is better performance than cows that are not dewormed. Also, if you have problems with scours in spring calving herds it’s a good idea to vaccinate cows in the fall. You’re not necessarily protecting your cows from scours, but it will increase the immunity in the cows, which will pass that along in the colostrum when the calves nurse in the spring.” He added the producer should consult with a veterinarian if the herd has experienced calf scours in the past.
University of Missouri Extension southwest region livestock specialist Eldon Cole noted producers will also give cows vaccinations to address any respiratory problems that might be surfacing during the winter. “This is especially true if you have yearling cattle or weaned calves that you’re going to background for a while,” Cole told OFN. “If you are in a breeding program where you are going to be breeding those cows for fall calves a year from now, there are some vaccines that need to be given to help give some protection against some of the breeding problems that we have, like vibriosis. We also want to get the parasites, both external and internal, under control as we head towards cooler weather and the winter feeding period.”
Cole said the producer should head off any problems the cattle may have during the winter with access to water. “The number one nutrient need of cattle that will cost you more than anything else if you don’t provide it is water,” he said. “Regardless of what kind of water source you’ve got, whether it’s a pond, a stream or a spring, it needs to be available all the time, basically 24 hours a day, because cattle may drink at odd times. If they go up to the water source and it’s frozen solid, that’s going to affect their dry matter intake and if they’re not eating plenty of dry matter to meet their needs, they are going to be in trouble and will not gain as well.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here