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Preparing for calving season

As we close out 2019 and look forward to the 2020 calving season, it’s a great time to ensure that your cows, facilities and nutrition program are ready. It is also an excellent time to review the performance of the herd. 2019 was a challenging year for many producers, particularly in regards to forage quantity and quality. Many spring-calving herds are entering the third trimester, when nutrient requirements increase, and  supplementation will likely have a significant impact on a successful calving and breeding season. Let’s examine a few variables that may play a role in your supplement decisions as we progress into the new year.

Body condition score (BCS)

The CRYSTALYX® Beef Cow Body Condition Score App is an excellent tool, and the picture records provide a quick reference to review individual cows and the whole herd or group average.  The goal is to have cows at a body condition of 5 or 6 going into the calving season. Checking to see if the average BCS of the group has changed and looking at individual cows is a useful management tool. Depending on when you start calving there may not be much time to add condition. The current BCS is a critical measurement to determine if changes to the nutrition program are necessary. It is also important to note that weather conditions have changed quickly in many areas, which will increase the energy requirement of the cow.  

Grouping considerations

It was difficult to put up high-quality hay in many parts of the country due to excessively wet weather conditions. As a result, many operations have a limited amount of good quality hay. Some areas were limited on hay volume in general and have been relying more on crop residue (such as corn stalks) more than in previous years. If you have the ability to group animals by BCS, there is also the option to feed your better-quality hay to those cattle needing a higher plane of nutrition, such as first calf heifers and thinner mature cows. Cows in good condition and those that are easy keepers can stay on the lower quality forage. This can help stretch your forage inventory and better meet the nutritional needs of the cattle.

RELATED: Third trimester cow nutrition: Examining critical calorie intake

Supplement options

CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements offers a variety of protein supplements to improve forage digestibility, which allows cattle to get more out of the forage. Higher protein level supplements (30% or greater) are recommended for feeding with low quality forage that is under 8% CP and high in fiber. BGF-30™ and HE-30%™ are especially popular supplement options for those feeding low quality forages. Better quality hay (over 10% protein) can be fed with 20% CP or lower supplements. CRYSTALYX low moisture protein supplements will have average intakes of 0.75 lbs/hd/day. Intakes will vary with cattle type and forage conditions.

The Breed-Up® line and Blueprint® line of supplements offer an enhanced mineral and vitamin profile when compared to the regular supplements. The Breed-Up line offers a higher trace mineral profile and higher vitamin levels, while the Blueprint line offers Alltech’s Total Replacement Technology™ where all the trace minerals are provided by Bioplex® chelated trace minerals.  It is recommended to start Breed-Up supplements at least 30 days prior to calving and through the calving season. These supplements offer the protein delivery necessary to improve forage digestibility, along with a premium mineral package for enhanced performance, thereby improving the reproductive performance of the herd.

An additional option is one of our CrystalBlox™ products, which can prove especially useful at times when more nutrient delivery is required. This patented product will allow for higher, yet controlled intakes. Average intake will be around 1.25 to 1.50 lbs/hd/day. Altering the container to cow ratio will allow you to adjust for lower or higher intakes to match your situation. Thin cows combined with low forage quality would be one scenario where the higher nutrient delivery of CrystalBlox would be particularly beneficial.

So, what do you want to improve in 2020? A common response may be a higher weaning weight or higher profitability, however many factors that are out of our control can impact these general goals. A more specific goal, such as improved reproductive performance will be far more likely to generate positive results. CRYSTALYX offers a wide variety of supplements and tools to help you reach your goals this year.