We are now head long into summer and I thought it would be a good time to make sure we don’t forget about the cow herd. More than likely they have long been moved out to pasture and the bulls have more than likely been out now for a period of time in most conventional spring calving herds. I know that the days are long and sometimes the attention span for reading is rather short during summer. Below is a quick list of reminders for management areas that can easily be overlooked or delayed to a point where you might experience reductions in calf gain, delayed breeding, or potentially open cows, all resulting and lost income opportunities.
- Monitor your pastures for both Quantity and Quality: Rain can help determine both, but if mother nature has become a bit stingy on providing moisture, you will see pastures begin to go down in quality as they senesce or dry up, as well as quantity when plants slow down growth. Protein supplementation and/or moving to new pastures can be in order depending upon the conditions.
- Evaluate heifer and cow body condition: Generally at this time of year the cow herd should be in great body condition. Replacement heifers as well. However, getting back to monitoring your pastures, if they have been limited in nutrient supply for any length of time, it will begin to show up by their body condition. Make sure you are looking at both pastures and the cow herd in order to be prepared for timely decisions with pasture movement and/or protein supplementation. It is much easier to stay ahead of the game as problems present themselves as opposed to catch-up or initiate rescue programs later on. Don’t forget about the CRYSTALYX® Body Condition Score app available to download on IPhone or Android platforms.
- Check your Bulls: Once you have dropped off your bulls with the cow herd, invite your spouse or significant other to take a few regularly scheduled evening trips to make sure they’re doing what you paid them to do. Periodically check on them to verify your Bull battery is finding and then breeding cows. Once your first round of cows has been bred, make sure your bulls are not having to go back and service a number of them again. This could be a sign of an infertile bull. Be sure that your bulls are in good condition with no physical injuries and that they are keeping up with the cow herd.
- Make certain ample supplies of fresh, high quality water is readily available at all times: Water tanks, streams, dug outs, wells, ponds, etc. all need to be checked often to make sure cattle can access water freely. Higher temperatures make it even more critical that cattle do not run out or that they are forced to consume stagnant, poor quality water.
- Mineral/Vitamin supplements: This is one area where we commonly see empty feeders or supplement containers when making summer pasture observations. Don’t let your summer mineral/vitamin supplements run out. Cows are still being settled in many spring calving herds and you can’t afford to have any cows miss a breeding opportunity just because we let the supplement run out. You are too close to the finish line for getting cows bred to let them slip back a cycle. Don’t let them run out.
- Count your flies: There are some pretty tell-tale signs if flies are a problem with your cows. Irritated weepy eyes, cows standing in corners of the pasture or spending an unusual amount of time standing in ponds. These are indicators that cows are uncomfortable and flies are likely the culprit. Review your fly control program. A series of knock-down’s may be required to get back to a starting position for an effective feed-through larvacide program that will take you through the remainder of the grazing season.
I realize that summer is a time that cows can be left to graze on their own as most producers address their forage program for the upcoming fall and winter months. The cow herd still needs attention to make sure there are no surprises later on. Enjoy the summer but go check the cows!