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The last trimester in spring calving cow herds

It’s a new year, 2012, and the optimism in the Cattle Industry continues. Spring calving is just around the corner and thus a great percentage of the 2012 Calf-crop is in the 3rd trimester of fetal development or very close to it.Over 85% of fetal growth occurs during this stage of gestation, and nutritional demands of the mother cow are increasing at a rapid rate.Protein and energy demands increase nearly 20% just during the last month of pregnancy (see chart below). 


Cow Body Condition has got to be the number one priority in a cow-calf nutrition program.As an indicator of Energy status, it affects everything from health to reproductive efficiency, and ultimately profitability.At no point is Body Condition more critical than during late gestation and early lactation. The processes of fetal development, delivering a calf, milk production and repair of the reproductive tract, are all physiological stresses.All these require large quantities of energy to enable cows to rebreed in 85 days in order to maintain a calving interval of 12 months.

Once the calf is born, its survival and immunity is dependent on receiving high quality colostrum the first 24 hours of life.Colostrum in milk provides the passive immunity to a calf from the IgG (Immunoglobulin) concentration. These immunoglobulins are antibodies that fight bacterial and viral challenges the calf will encounter until its active immunity is developed. 

A cow that is in good health, adequate body condition (BCS 5-7), and is meeting nutritional requirements during the last trimester of gestation will produce adequate amounts and quality of colostrum for her newborn calf. On the flip side, cows that are nutritionally challenged and losing body condition will produce lower quality colostrum, experience more dystocia,  have less vigorous calves with more health problems, and be challenged to re breed efficiently etc.

So, with Mother Nature’s help, if we have been utilizing a good supplement strategy to maintain body condition and utilize forages effectively, calving season should go well right?Yes, it should if we continue to pay attention to nutrition and continue to make best use of available forages.Now is likely the time to utilize our better quality forages or increase supplementation to lower quality forages (generally forages less than 10-12% protein).

 Mineral and vitamin requirements also increase during the third trimester and are important to immune function, reproductive efficiency, etc... If byproduct feeds such as distiller grains are being utilized, mineral nutrition can be further complicated and may need to be fine -tuned in addition to simply being fed at higher levels.

 For many areas of the U.S., it’s been a nice mild winter so far.For cow-calf producers, that’s not a bad thing as cold stress, nutritional stress, feeding costs, etc…, have likely been reduced from where they potentially could be.These market and environmental conditions have made it possible to get more out of winter grazing and hopefully producers have used supplement strategies to maintain or even add condition score to their cows. Now as calving season approaches, be sure to continue to pay attention to nutrition and make the best of 2012.

Talk to your CRYSTALYX® dealer for more information.Obtain input on specific CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplement and programs that fit the third trimester of pregnancy for your Beef Cow operation.