Jan. 7, 2012 - Common Sense Tips for Winter Grazing

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By Richard J. Holliday, DVM

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Here are some tips that will help to increase the health, productivity and profitability of your grazing herd over the coming winter.

· Balance out low quality forages with high energy supplements such as Cal Cubes*. Supplying the needed energy helps utilize marginal forages and keeps condition on calves as well as cows.

· If you are low on pasture or when pasture quality declines it’s a good idea to wean the calves before they begin losing weight. This way the calves do not compete for available forage, and it’s easier and more economical to supplement the calves than the whole herd.

· If feed is short, it is very expensive to maintain open cows or cows calving outside a preferred 70 to 90 day calving interval. Preg-check all cows and heifers and cull the open ones. If indicated, supplement their energy requirements with Cal Cubes*.

· Group animals according to nutritional needs (for example, thinner cows with bred heifers) and feed accordingly. This saves feed and labor.

· Cattle have their highest nutritional need during the last month of gestation, calving and rebreeding, and require a diet with 60–62% TDN and a minimum of 10% CP for optimum health and performance. After weaning their lower nutrient requirements allow the nutrient intake to be reduced to 48–50% TDN and a minimum of 7% CP. This avoids overly fat dry cows and saves feed.

· Requirements for Calcium and Phosphorus vary with the season, with the different rations and pastures, and even with individual animals. The balance between the two is also critical for optimum health and utilization of nutrients. The same is true of other major and trace minerals. To be assured of the proper amounts and balance of all these minerals, it is advantageous to provide the complete array of self regulated free-choice minerals and trace minerals available in ABC Plus’s mineral program. Proper mineral nutrition increases the digestibility and assimilation of nutrients from all forages – another economic advantage.

· When wind chill temperatures fall below freezing, each 1° Centigrade drop in temperature increases energy requirements by about 2%. If feed intake is not increased, some sort of energy supplement is advised to prevent loss of body weight and condition. In cold weather, feeding low quality forages may predispose to rumen impaction. Cal Cubes* may supply the needed energy.

· Take steps to insure all animals have access to an adequate supply of clean, ice-free water at all times. Dry matter intake is dependent on water intake, and both are especially important during fall grazing and winter feeding when poorer quality roughage is fed.

· Pay particular attention to the method of feeding hay to avoid waste. Feeding on the ground can waste up to 60% of feeding value. Wastage with other feeders can range from 4% to 30%. It is important to avoid over consumption by older more aggressive cows.

*Cal Cubes use forage based nutrient sources to fit the grass fed model but supply over 1,000 kcal per pound for maximum effect. The Range Cube form allows easy feeding on open pasture or in a bunk.