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Managing the Cow Herd Late in the Grazing Season September 1, 2021 contributed by Yaremcio Consulting, Ltd.

There are three major considerations when managing the cow herd late in the grazing season.

First: What feed is available at this time? Forage production in most pastures has been

reduced due to a hot, dry summer and don’t have sufficient forage to support animals.

Switching animals to swath grazing, providing supplemental feed on pasture, or moving animals to a dry lot feeding program are options to consider.

Second: Can the calves be weaned early? Calves that are 150 days old have a fully functional digestive system. The weaned calf can be placed on a ration that consists of hay and grain. After they are eating well, silage can be gradually introduced into the ration to replace the hay. It is possible for the calves to obtain 2 pounds of gain (or more) per day after weaning.

The nutritional requirement of a dry pregnant cow is 25% lower than a lactating cow. A lower

quality ration can be provided. It is more likely that a dry cow will gain weight compared to

one that is still lactating.

Third: What is the condition of the cows? Body condition score is an indication of how much

fat the cow is carrying. A thin cow does not have the ability to withstand cold stress as well as one that is in good condition. If a cow is 200 pounds lighter than normal, it takes an additional 1400 pounds of hay for the cow to stay warm compared to one that is in good condition. Assuming hay is 10 cents per pound, the winter feed bill per cow is increased by $140.00. It is likely that more grain will need to be fed to have the cows in good condition prior to calving.

Thin cows cannot produce the quality or quantity of colostrum. This negatively impacts the

passive immunity passed on to the calf which can cause more health problems at calving time. Also, thin cows are less likely to be receptive to a bull during breeding season which can result in more open cows.

Evaluating current pasture conditions and evaluating cow condition can prevent many

problems in the future. It is more efficient to make changes before winter sets in.

Barry Yaremcio

Ruminant Nutritionist


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