Sponsored By
Farm Futures logo

7 feeding tips for your moms-to-be cows7 feeding tips for your moms-to-be cows

Pay your spring-calving cows well with feed and shelter; they're your most-valuable fulltime employees and put money in your bank.

January 4, 2016

3 Min Read

As noted in January's issue, paying your spring-calving cows well pays. Maximizing every female's performance in the third gestation trimester puts real money in the bank. Here are seven common sense management procedures during that critical 90 days before calving:

1. Boost protein and TDN: Using already available feeds, adjust feeding levels to fully meet late gestation's increased needs. Consider the following protein and total digestible nutrient (TDN) daily requirements of mid-gestation vs late-gestation cows weighing 1,300 pounds:




% Increase

Crude protein (lbs.)




TDN (lbs.)





For an example, let's assume you have urea-treated corn silage available. A forage test reveals it contains 35% dry matter, 12% crude protein and 70% TDN.

Mid-gestation cows would require 44 pounds of silage per head daily (as fed) to meet energy (TDN) needs. Late gestation cows would need 51pounds.

At those levels to meet TDN, protein needs would be more than met. On the other hand, if your silage is untreated (averaging 8% crude protein), a supplemental protein source would be required.

Obviously, you can do a more accurate job of feeding if you have feedstuffs analyzed for nutrient content.


2. Feed by group: If facilities permit, divide the herd into groups with similar feed requirements. If the entire herd is housed and fed together, overfeeding and underfeeding inevitably will occur. A desirable grouping would be:

* Herd sires

* Replacement heifers

* First and second-calf heifers

* Thin cows (BCS 3 and 4)

* Moderate cows (BCS 5 and above)

3. Don't forget micro-nutrients: A simple free-choice mixture of trace-mineral salt, limestone, dical, mag ox and selenium is desirable.

A vitamin premix can also be added, but don't mix too far ahead. Minerals may oxidize and render vitamins useless over time. Many good commercial mixes are on the market if you prefer.

4. Be observant! Cows are more likely to prolapse during this period. In most cases, such cows are prime culling candidates.

Abortion is another possibility. Be sure you involve your veterinarian in any cases and establish the cause. It could be a sign of a more widespread reproductive disease.

5. Don't let up on parasite control: Parasites rob your cows of needed nutrients and need to be controlled.

6. Boost immunity levels: Work with your veterinarian to develop a vaccination program for cows pre-calving. Vaccinating cows during this period effectively improves colostrum's immune qualities. Your reward comes after calving -- fewer newborn scours problems. That's if cow nutrition and calving environment are properly addressed.

7. Handle with care: Minimize cow handling during late pregnancy, and be gentle when you must do so. Rough handling and inadequate working facilities probably have led to more abortions than we realize.

For more details on smart cow management tips during that third trimester, click on Paying your cows well pays .

Harpster is a beef producer and retired Penn State University animal scientist.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like