Four Winter Beef Cow Nutrition Strategies
Winter is typically the most costly season in terms of feed expenses. The following winter beef cow nutrition strategies can help maximize your beef cow feed efficiency and ensure cows are at a healthy weight and body condition before the breeding season.
Feed is the No. 1 cost for a cow-calf herd. So, it’s vital to identify open females beforehand to help save money on your winter feeding bill.
Up to 70 percent of total pregnancy loss occurs in the first 45 days after breeding. By conducting pregnancy checks at least 45 days after the breeding season concludes, beef producers can help account for early pregnancy loss. This also provides a clearer picture of which cows are open and may need to be culled going into winter feeding season, which helps save on winter feeding costs.
Evaluate body condition scores following weaning to determine how much weight gain is needed throughout the winter-feeding season to get cows ready for spring calving, and balance nutrition accordingly. There is an increased energy requirement during cold winter weather, so feeding the appropriate levels of protein and energy is important.
Beef cows are evaluated for body condition on a nine-point scale. The acceptable body condition score range is five to seven, with six being the ideal score.
Test stored forages to determine the macro mineral, protein, energy content and overall quality. Make sure these forages are meeting the cows’ nutritional requirements, and consider supplementing additional energy, protein and trace minerals through the winter.
Stored and stockpiled forages are more mature than lush forages and, therefore, are going to have less trace mineral availability and a lower overall nutritional value. It is important to supplement your beef cattle nutrition program with performance trace minerals and vitamins during winter.
Supplementing trace minerals is easier in winter since cows are often closer to the home farm at that time. Research has shown that feeding performance trace minerals during the third trimester results in increased weaning weight, as well as reduced incidence of Bovine Respiratory Disease in the offspring.
In addition to these four winter beef cattle nutrition strategies, beef cattle producers should consider their feeding practices and look for opportunities to reduce forage waste. Winter preparation should also include checking water sources to ensure beef cows have ample access to water.