As spring pastures emerge, producers should monitor the body condition of their cattle

With new spring grass on the horizon, there are producers who may have questions and concerns about what that means for the grazing habits of their cattle.

Is the grass containing enough nutritional value in the early spring to sustain a healthy herd, or should they continue feeding hay?

According to both Dr. Shane Gadberry, associate professor and ruminant nutrition specialist with the Unveristy of Arkanas Cooperate Extension Serivce, and Dr. Bruss Horn of the Verden Animal Clinic in Verden, Okla., it is essential to continue supplementing cattle for a little while longer.

The carryover winter grass will not be high enough in protein to maintain the desired healthy herd, and even though a pasture might be full of green grass, cattle start to loose weight.

One thing that will help with the incoming spring grass is placing the cattle in a cordoned off hay feeding area to allow for a good spring pasture to grow before being turned out for grazing.

Some good advice would be to partition off a section of the pasture using a portable fence charger and polywire system, as it is both inexpensive and most effective and will allow the necessary time that the pasture grass will need to grow.

Another factor, according to Horn, is the pasture itself. If the pasture is failing to yield the appropriate nutritional needs for the cattle even after it has had time to green, it may be necessary to continue with a hay regiment and include supplements in their diet. Protein and salt supplements are often needed if hay is in limited supply. It is important to keep track of the herd by monitoring their body condition. Examine how fleshy or thin cows appear. Cows are likely to lose body condition this time of year due to the lack of nutrients they are able to ingest from the previous winter. A good goal for weight is somewhere around the middle ground; a score of 5 1/2 to a 6 on the BCS chart.

It is important to note that this scale may differ from some producers, but the key is that the cattle should maintain a healthy look, neither too fat or too thin, and that the diet might have to be adjusted as the monitoring continues.

Fertility issues can also arise from improper nutrition. One problem is that thin females will take longer to breed back than females in moderate to good condition.

Gadberry recommends that thin cows be supplemented with feed when approaching the breeding season.

Cows that are in good body condition and grazing the pasture while going into the breeding season should not require any additional feed supplements. Gadberry added that regardless of supplementation and condition, all cows should be checked for pregnancy 45 days after the normal breeding season to the normal calf weaning time and all the cows that are not breed be culled.

The nutritional needs of livestock and how they are monitored will play a huge part in the future profitability for producers.

Careful attention to weight and eating habits of the cattle and by just making the proper adjustments when needed are a crucial way to make sure that you are enjoying the benefits of having a healthy and productive herd.


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