Showing posts with the label nutrition

Winter Feeding & the Cow Calf Operation

Winter nutrition for the cow calf operation is key. It may be the best opportunity to positively affect real income.

This was the message heard during the annual Beef & Beyond conference. It was clear and concise. The winter feeding program at a cow calf operation separates profitable farms from less profitable operations. It depends a lot on stored feed says University of Illinois Beef Cattle Specialist Dan Shike.

Quote Summary - How much stored feed are they having to purchase and what is their winter feeding program. We would like to graze as many days as we can, but if we can’t graze we have to feed them something. What’s the least cost approach.

Least cost only works if the cows meet acceptable performance standards. These are to maintain appropriate body condition, to calve once a year, and to wean off as heavy a calf as possible, but there’s more.

Quote Summary - We’ve not given much consideration in the past to the fetus. We’ve focused on the cow. We’ve focused on the calf that is nursing on her, but she’s also been bred and has a developing fetus inside of her. So, the nutrition management of the cow impacts the development of the fetus. There is plenty of data from human epidemiological studies and other animal models that maternal nutrition, or nutrition during gestation, has lifelong impacts on the progeny.

The results with beef cattle are mixed in this area of study and varies from region to region mostly as it relates to available forages. This seems obvious, but the clear message is if the cows are in poor body condition and not being fed enough there is a great deal of risk to hurting the calf. Under winter feedlot conditions this means the properly managed cow produces a calf which eventually yields better marbling. Heifer calves kept for breeding benefit from good nutrition in the womb, too. They weigh more, mature earlier, and have better conception rates.

Quote Summary - All these benefits come later in life at a year or two of age. It was set when the fetus was 3 to 4 months of age during mid-to-late gestation. All because the cow was in good body condition. A condition score of 5 or 6. On the flip side, a short term restriction in nutrition of a cow already in good condition isn’t particularly harmful. If the cow is already thin, say a body condition score of 4 or less, you should anticipate you’re restricting the fetus. If she is in good condition, even if her nutrition is restricted, the cow will mobilize body reserves to supply the appropriate nutrients to the fetus.

The body condition score runs from one to nine with scores of five or six considered optimum. Scores of eight or nine are too fat, scores below four are too thin.

Cold Weather Maintenance Diets for Dairy Calves

Feeding a heifer dairy calf properly during cold weather can mean up to 1500 extra pounds of milk during her first lactation period. Todd Gleason has more on the increased cold weather maintenance diet that results in such a gain.

You can get more milk from a cow if you treat it right as a calf says University of Illinois Dairy Specialist Phil Cardoso. This is especially the case if those calves are fed a proper maintenance diet during periods of cooler (not necessarily cold) weather when they are very young.

Quote Summary - The maintenance diet supplies all the energy needed for the development of the immune system, for growth, and for the calf to live. There is a thermal neutral zone in which the calves nutritional needs are flat, outside of this zone it needs more energy to generate more heat the winter or to cool down in the summer. During the winter the calf needs to generate energy to heat themselves.

The temperature at which additional feed is needed to keep the calf operating at a maintenance level for growth isn’t so low. It starts at 59 degrees fahrenheit. To this end ILLINOIS uses a simple table to guide dairy farmers in how much extra milk replacer a young calf would need when it is cold stressed. The table has temperatures on one side of the graph and the calf’s weight on the other.

The supplemental energy is provided by the standard 20 percent fat / 20 percent crude protein milk replacer. An example of how the table works would be to find the weight of the calf, say 110 pounds, and the temperature outside. If it is 50 degrees the calf needs four quarts of milk replacer. If it is colder, 41 degrees, it would take 4.26 quarts.

The colder it gets the more milk replacer the calf needs in its regular maintenance diet, at least if the goal is to achieve an extra 1500 pounds of milk once the calf becomes a cow. Those wanting to view the easy to use University of Illinois dairy calf maintenance diet table will find it on the Dairy Focus website.