A well-balanced diet is important in humans’ overall health plan.
Similarly, just as our caloric needs adjust throughout our lives, nutritional fluctuations happen in the beef cow, say the experts at Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute on a recent "Cattle Chat" podcast.
“Right after weaning, the beef cow’s energy requirements are low,” says Brad White, veterinarian and BCI director.
Fellow veterinarian Bob Larson suggests the first step in making a nutrition plan for the cow herd is to assess the body condition of the cows.
“By knowing the body condition, producers can either get by with minimal supplementation for cows in good nutritional shape; or if they are thin, this is a good time to add weight on them while they are in mid-gestation and not lactating,” Larson says.
For thin cows, beef cattle nutritionist Phillip Lancaster said the most economical way to add weight is by turning them out on grass while it is still available.
“Aside from the inconvenience of hauling hay and cost of feeding supplements later in the winter, by waiting to supplement the cows in the last trimester of their pregnancy, producers will have less time to ensure that cows reach a desired body condition by calving,” Lancaster says.
However, he adds, from an efficiency standpoint, research has shown that adding body condition in late lactation is improved over that of a nonlactating, or dry, cow.
“If you can separate the thin cows and their calves and feed them away from the other cows in the herd, that can be an advantage — but it also takes more work to manage that system,” Lancaster says.
White adds that the management strategy will be dependent on several factors on the operation, one of which is access to the cows.
“Logistically, it may be easier to add weight on the cows after weaning,” he says.
To hear more of this discussion, listen to the Cattle Chat podcast online.