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Summarize the Calving Season for the Beef Cow Herd Prior to Pasture Turnout

Driving this week it was very apparent that spring has arrived and cattle will be turned out to pasture very soon in many areas. Tractors were in the fields completing manure application with tillage and planting equipment starting once soils begin to dry up a bit. Increased activities over the next few weeks signal a critical time in many agricultural production systems and this is especially true for the cow calf sector. A couple of the benefits of CRYSTALYX® Self Fed Supplements are the saving time compared to hand fed supplements and the added confidence of consistent nutrient delivery during critical production phases. Before we get busy with planting and cropping activities we need to take time to review and record what has happened during the calving season. You can only manage something if there is a record to review. Ultimately the goal is maintaining performance or making management changes to improve areas that we may find lacking. This necessitates writing and recording information to monitor the results of any management changes. The check list below has 2 purposes. First, it will help you establish where the herd is at currently. Second, the list will expose some questions of “Why did this happen?” which will help you decide what to watch and monitor this grazing season.

  1. Review and Summarize the calving season by 1st calf heifers, 2nd calf cows and 3rd calf plus mature cows.
    • How many animals calved in the first 21, 42 and 60 days or greater.
    • Why did late calving females (60 days or greater) fall into that time frame?
      • For late calving heifers and 2nd calving cows, what contributed to their late calving.
        • Is she genetically a difficult late breeder?  Was she late last year?  If yes, you may consider putting her on the cull list because eventually she will fall out of your calving window.
        • Was body condition a contributing factor?  Consider using the CRYSTALYX® Body Condition Score App to record body condition, especially on heifers and 2nd calf cows.
        • Did she experience early embryonic loss due to being on washy lush pasture in the first trimester of pregnancy? It is common practice to breed virgin heifers early to give them more time to recover before the “regular” breeding season.  However, this may dictate that pregnant heifers are turned to pasture early in the grazing season. This can create a negative energy balance at a critical time in gestation. The nutrient content of the grass combined with low dry matter intake of heifers can place them in a negative energy balance while they are trying to establish and maintain a viable pregnancy. Remember that heifers have not reached their mature body size and have the added energy demand of lactation and growth in addition to trying to maintain pregnancy. CRYSTALYX®  Breed-Up® Omega is unique in that it offers additional nutrient delivery and 12% fat, which can be beneficial in maintaining energy balance during the early turn out on washy pastures.
  2. Review Calf Health – Animals that experience scours or pneumonia early in life may not reach their full genetic potential. This is where an ounce of prevention is most certainly worth a pound of cure.
    1. How many calves experienced scours?
      • When did the scour event happen during the calving season?
      • How many calves experienced respiratory challenges?  
      • The reality is that in much of the country, pasture availability is the limiting resource due to competition for crop ground and other uses.  Often we calve in the same pastures year after year. This has created an environment that can challenge gut health due to the pathogen load that develops during the calving season. Several of the CRYSTALYX® protein and all of the Breed-Up® products that are used around the time of calving have a Bio-Mos® or Actigen® option. The addition of Bio-Mos® can improve colostrum quality and improve calf health for the next calving season.
  3. Determine your mineral supplementation plan for the breeding season and into summer pasture. Reproductive success is the primary driver of profitability for the cow calf producer. Trace mineral status plays a critical role in reproduction and there is mounting evidence that suggests trace mineral status during gestation will have an impact of performance later in life of the developing calf.

Spring is a great time of the year with new calves on the ground and pastures greening up. The current calf crop is the result of all the effort and management of the last breeding and grazing season. The investment in the next calf crop started last fall with the condition of the cows going into the winter and the plane of nutrition we maintained during the calving season. To use a racing analogy, now is not the time to let up and try to coast through. Reviewing the calving season and recording the status of the cows will help you in managing the nutrition of the herd and your supplement decisions. CRYSTALYX® offers a variety of tools to assist in your efforts such as the Body Condition Score App and the wide variety of supplement options.