Missouri Ruralist logo

Add supplements to your nutrition program to boost cow body condition.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

March 24, 2017

2 Min Read
FUTURE FERTILITY: Paying attention to cow nutritional needs after spring calving may determine rebreeding rates. Cows maintaining a body condition score of 5 or below are less likely to breed back.Tomas_Handfield/iStock/Thinkstock

Spring calving season is already upon many Missouri beef producers. Still, some may be chomping at the bit waiting for that first set of spring calves to arrive. Whatever your situation, one thing remains true this time of year — a beef producer's immediate focus is on calf health. However, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist Gene Schmitz says now is not the time to neglect cow nutrition.

Spring is a difficult time to feed beef cows as they begin to chase the new grass, even though there isn’t enough available to meet their nutrient needs, Schmitz says. And hay quality might not be adequate to meet the nutrient demands of lactating cows, either.

Time to supplement
"Milk production increases mature cow energy requirements by over 30%, and protein requirements by 50%," Schmitz explains. "These nutrients are usually supplemented by grain or grain byproducts, but these supplements are expensive."

He says that even though supplementation is expensive, "allowing lactating cows to lose body condition now is even more expensive, due to the reduction in reproductive performance in the upcoming breeding season."

He suggests beef producers invest this year in supplements for cows struggling to maintain condition. Research by Oklahoma State University Extension backs his recommendation. The OSU Extension trial shows the vulnerability of cows that calve with a body condition score of 5.

Research results
According to the study, two groups of cows began the winter feeding period in similar body condition and calved in very similar body condition. However, after calving and before the breeding season began, one group was allowed to lose almost one full condition score. The other group of cows was fed adequately to maintain the body condition that they had prior to calving. The difference in the rebreeding rate was dramatic — 73% for cows that lost body condition vs. 94% for cows that maintained body condition.

According to Glenn Selk, OSU Extension animal scientist, the study illustrates that cows that calve with a body condition score of 5 are very vulnerable to weather and suckling-intensity stresses, and ranchers must use good nutritional strategies after calving to avoid disastrous rebreeding performance.

While supplementation is expensive, farmers should consider the losses of next year's calf crop due to rebreeding failure without it.

Schmitz says that if cattle producers need more detailed information on beef cow supplementation programs tailored to your operation, they should call their regional livestock specialist.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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

You May Also Like