The answer is right now, today, if not sooner! Many of you have spring calving herds, and you have probably already weaned this year’s calves, or, you are about to. There are three main reasons that the time immediately after weaning is a great time to add condition to your cows, for very little investment.
- Those cows are no longer lactating. Lactation takes a large portion of energy each day for a cow. The priorities for partitioning energy from the diet in a beef cow, are first, for maintenance, then lactation, and then gain. By removing the lactation energy requirement, you immediately push all that energy in to gain.
- In number 1 above, we briefly mentioned a cow’s maintenance energy requirement. Maintenance energy requirement increases as temperatures increase or decrease when cows are outside of their thermal neutral zone. The thermal neutral zone is a moving target that is greatly impacted by hair coat, moisture and wind, just to name three variables. For the purpose of this article, I believe most would agree that cows maintenance energy requirements will be lower with the temperatures we see in November, versus January. This lower maintenance energy requirement again frees up more energy for weight gain.
- While the maintenance energy requirements are lower in November versus January due to warmer temperatures, a Spring calving cow will also have lower fetal energy requirements during gestation in the Fall. Again, this means more of her daily energy intake can go to weight gain or body condition stores.
The vast majority (70%) of fetal weight gain occurs in the last 3 months of gestation. This is a very challenging time to try to add condition to your cows. Unfortunately, this is the time when many cattlemen are paying more attention to their cows, as they are likely feeding them stored forages, and we budget more time to pay attention to the herd as we near calving. Trying to add condition at this time of the year is not impossible, it will just cost you more than it would have in the Fall. So, plan ahead, put that extra condition on now, before the opportunity is gone.
While cows will generally gain weight in the Fall after calving, most forages are of poorer quality this time of year. They will respond greatly to even a little protein supplementation. Protein supplementation of low quality forage (whether grazed or fed in bales) will increase the digestibility (energy release) and intake (even more energy available to the cow). Many cattlemen refer to this as s t r e t c h i n g their forage.
This is generally the point where I hear how busy Cattlemen are in the Fall, and supplementing the cow herd may not be at the top of the priority list. This is well understood, but you should also remember that “CRYSTALYX® has a barrel for that.” CRYSTALYX® Brand self-fed protein supplements are an excellent way to maximize your returns from a supplement program that’s available 24/7. A properly stocked set of CRYSTALYX® barrels will generally last about 2 weeks. This will minimize your investment in time, labor and equipment, while you take care of other priorities that also need to be done today!