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Setting the stage for success: A mid-summer checklist for the beef cow herd

We are well into the summer grazing season and I have started to see ads for back-to-school sales, which made me realize that fall is just around the corner. Summer is a time when we can slow down a little and enjoy family activities, such as trips to the lake or showing livestock at the county fairs. A few necessary management activities during this time include evaluating pasture conditions, body condition scoring cows and doing some pre-planning for weaning season. These can be accomplished while filling mineral feeders, placing barrels or checking fence. The key is to make a concerted effort and record what you see. The adage “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” certainly rings true here.

Weather and, more specifically, moisture conditions vary greatly throughout the southeastern U.S., and I am hearing reports from colleagues of declining pasture conditions and possible early chopping of corn silage, due to localized dry conditions in other parts of the country. It is difficult to make a broad recommendation due to this variation. I have witnessed this firsthand, when a mere 30-minute drive has taken me from good pasture and excellent crops to fields of corn curling under moisture and heat stress and dried, brown grass pastures.

The importance of body condition scoring

In situations where forage quality and quantity have declined, it can be very easy for cows to lose condition. This is especially true of first-calf heifers with nursing calves. Time taken to body score the cattle is time well spent; the CRYSTALYX® Body Condition Scoring App is a great tool for this. It can be difficult to detect small changes based on memory alone. The app provides a visual history in addition to a numeric score. You can group cattle by pasture or make a heifer group, which can allow you to determine if body condition is starting to decline.

It is also important to evaluate pasture quality. Are there areas that are over- or under-grazed? Should stocking rates be changed? Would the addition of a CRYSTALYX protein supplement extend the grazing season or help pull cattle to underutilized parts of the pasture?

Early weaning considerations

The combined findings from evaluating pasture and body condition scoring may lead you to decide to early wean all calves, or at least the calves from your first calf heifers. Weaning early will significantly reduce nutrient requirements of both cows and heifers. This will allow for easier maintenance of current cow body condition and/or make it less expensive to improve the condition of thin cows.

Creep feeding

Even a short period of creep feeding before weaning can ease the transition calves make to dry feed. If you are not set up to provide a traditional creep feed, using a CRYSTALYX product like Iono-lyx® or the new CrystalBlox™ 20 AN in areas only accessible to calves through a creep gate is another way to acclimate them to a new feeding system. This takes pressure off the cow, which will also take some pressure off the pasture.

The last step in preparing for weaning is securing your supply of Battalion® or Brigade® for the first month after weaning. We are currently in a time of tight inventory control and, if you are weaning months earlier than normal, your supplier may not be ready with enough product on-hand. These stress-fighting blocks have proven themselves to be excellent tools in keeping calves healthy and getting them started on feed quickly.

Enjoy your remaining summer activities. Hopefully, you can get in a few days of relaxation before the season is gone and fall work takes over your time and attention. Evaluating your forage and cattle condition will be of benefit is several ways. CRYSTALYX brand supplements offer a wide variety of product options to help you reach your performance goals.