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Five ways to maximize beef cattle returns from forages during the summer and fall

We would like to continue with our theme of maximizing profitability from forages as we head into the summer and fall.  The importance of making the most from your forage base is a key factor in reducing additional expenses as well as optimizing calf performance and cow reproduction.  Summer and Fall grazing conditions bring upon new opportunities for capturing added value from your forages.  I have outlined a few of those opportunities below that can pay dividends for most beef producers.  We will also expand on these areas over the next 5 weeks to help provide you more information to determine if they have the potential to help you with your bottom line. 

  1. Fly control has demonstrated improved calf gains.  Flies, particularly the horn fly variety, can limit cattle performance on summer pastures when present in large populations.  Feed-through larvacides can be an important part of an integrated fly control program to help prevent reductions in calf body weight gain from fly pressure.  CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements have products that contain Rabon® Oral Larvacides (ROL) in addition to Altosid® Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) that can be used to help control flies on pasture. 
  2. Limit the negative impact on animal performance from endophyte infected fescue pastures.  Endophyte infected fescue pastures can severely limit animal performance, especially during the heat of the summer.  Make sure you provide a supplement that is specifically formulated for fescue pastures to help cattle deal with the heat when endophyte consumption can impair the animal’s circulation to their extremities.  CRYSTALYX® products like Fescue-Phos® or Hi-Mag Tasco-lyx® are specifically formulated with Tasco® seaweed meal to help cattle grazing endophyte infected fescue pastures.  Current cattle economics indicate any loss in reproduction or calf weight gain will result in significant reductions in cow-calf returns.  Make sure you have a supplement program in place that allows your cattle to deal with fescue pastures as profitably as possible.
  3. Grazing management with CRYSTALYX® low-moisture blocks maximizes pasture forage utilization.  Extensive research has been conducted on the use of CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements to improve forage utilization through the use of barrel placement.  It has been clearly demonstrated that cattle will spend more time in areas within 200 to 600 yards of where CRYSTALYX® barrels are placed in the pasture.  Management strategies have been developed where barrels are placed away from water, which is normally not recommended with free-choice supplements.  Cattle will then graze to the supplement and then graze back to the water.  This can help producers encourage cattle to consume forages in pasture locations where they may typically avoid.  Unused forage at the end of the season does not do much for helping promote animal performance. 
  4. Creep feeding can keep calves growing when pasture quality declines in the fall.  High calf prices have reiterated the importance of growing calves to their genetic potential while on grass.  As pastures mature in the fall, forage quality dips below cow maintenance requirements and as a result, milk production is significantly reduced.  When forage quality and milk quantities deteriorate, calf growth is negatively impacted and the opportunity for additional gain is limited without supplemental nutrition.  Economic returns for creep feeding become much more viable when forage availability and quality are dramatically reduced, in addition to when calf prices are extremely high.  Calf prices look to be very favorable this fall and should warrant serious consideration for creep feeding programs to ensure maximum calf growth and optimal returns to cow-calf producers.
  5. Protein supplementation can increase forage intake and digestibility of low quality forages.  This extensively researched practice is well established as a method of increasing the utilization of low quality forages.  Protein that is available to ruminal microbes will increase their growth and therefore the amount of forage digested.  This often times results in increased forage intake which in many cases helps cows meet their energy requirement, particularly in mid gestation and the first month or two of late gestation.  During dry periods or later in the growing season as forages mature or are stockpiled for later use, the need for protein to maintain both calf gains and cow body weight maintenance often pays, and this year the returns should be even more evident given present calf values.  Calves are heavier at weaning and cows go into the winter with more body condition stores so they are better fit to calve and rebreed on time.