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Why Should I Supplement Protein in September

If your grass is starting to dry out, or it has reached maturity, it will likely be short on crude protein (CP).  Yearling cattle really should have a diet CP level of at least 12%, and your mature cows should have at least 8% CP.  This is the time of the year when many western pastures will begin to fall below even 8% CP.  But, you say, were we not taught to only really worry about cow nutrition the last trimester of gestation?  If you fail to supplement protein to your cow herd in September or October does it really matter?  The short answer is, yes, it could. 

You may have heard about fetal programming at a Cattleman’s symposium or similar beef industry meeting, but does it affect you?  In a word, YES!  If you are in the business of producing or selling beef cattle, fetal programming affects what you have to sell.

Fetal programming is the concept that a maternal stimulus or insult at a critical period in fetal development has long term future impacts on the offspring.  This long term impact is not unlike genetic potential that is programmed before birth.  You cannot change a calf’s genetics after it is born, you can only provide that calf with the optimum growing conditions and hope that it has the genetic potential to be profitable.  Fetal programming is similar, in that you cannot fix periods of gestational malnutrition after the calf is born.  All you can do is provide that calf with the optimum growing conditions and hope that it (still) has the potential to be profitable.

A partial list of the areas fetal programming has been shown to impact would include:

  • Skeletal muscle development/calf growth & weight potential.
  • Marbling/carcass potential.
  • Reproductive efficiency of replacement heifers
    • Increased BW from weaning through 3 yr of age
    • Greater pregnancy rates
    • Heifers more likely to calve in the initial 21 d of the calving season.

Studies have compared herds split into two groups for at least the first two trimesters (6 months) of their pregnancy.  One group received inadequate crude protein in their diet, and the second group received adequate crude protein.  Even though calves were treated the same after birth, lack of adequate crude protein early in gestation caused differences throughout the calf’s life. 

Many spring calving herds will be in the second trimester of pregnancy in September and October.  Fall pastures often do not provide adequate crude protein for gestating beef cows.  You are only given one opportunity to get things right. Give those calves the protein they need NOW, during gestation, to set the stage for lifelong profitability. Early fall is the time to act. Program your herd for profitability with self-fed CRYSTALYX® Brand protein supplements.  They are an easy way to affordably provide protein, trace minerals, vitamins and phosphorus in a low-moisture supplement block that’s available 24/7, while minimizing your investment in time, labor and equipment.