- Jin Gan
Improve Reproduction And Profitability By Maintaining Body Condition
It is very tempting to skip feeding your cattle supplements during winter.season as trudging across the fields when it is windy and snowing isn't very pleasant. However, due to the cold weather, the energy requirements for the cows increases tremendously. It is important that the cows remain in good body condition in order to successfully calve and produce milk.
Important to provide sufficient nutrition for pregnant cows
The last third of gestation will account for approximately 70 - 80 percent of all growth. During the final two weeks, the average calf grows about 2 pounds per day. Hence, it is very important that the cows maintain or even gain body condition during the final period so that they have sufficient energy to calve.
There is a common myth that increased feeding will increase calf birth weight, increasing the chances of dystocia. This is however not true as studies concluded the opposite. Cows that lost weight during the last trimester have smaller calves but they also have more problems calving. This is due to lack of sufficient energy stored in their bodies. On the other hand, calves that managed to maintain or even gained weight have lower calving issues even if their calves weigh more. Maintaining body condition is also important for fertility, pregnancy and reproduction and it all affects the profitability of the farm.
Consider long term cattle health and farm profitability when making decisions
The importance of body condition throughout the entire reproductive cycle makes a very big difference to success rate of reproduction and profitability to the farm. It is recommended that the body condition is kept at 6 at calving and around 4.5 to 5 during weaning. With that being said, what are factors causing farmers not being able to achieve the desired body condition score? The main reason is because farmers are not willing to spend money on cattle feed supplement during winter months. As the prices of feed costs increases, farmers usually make the decision to not pay for supplemental feed. However, over the long run, they end up paying the price as their cows will have reduced ability to conceive and have an overall lower reproduction rate.
Cost of skipping on nutrition
Recent study has been conducted on a farmer during an excessively dry summer and fall. The farmer chose to not spend the $6,000 to $7,000 for feed supplement to maintain body condition score. However, he only achieved 42% pregnancy rate, which resulted in a $17,000 loss, more than twice he would have spent on feed to achieve the usual 80 - 90% pregnancy rate.
Supplementation during winter months
It is very important to maintain body condition during winter. To achieve this, supplementation is required. Even with a balanced forage, a rudimentary ration would not take into account their additional needs during winter months.
There are plenty of supplements available in the market. It is advisable to go for supplements that not only provide balanced protein and energy, but also helps enhances digestion which aims to prevent overeating by stimulating the cows to eat smaller but more frequent meals.
Pre-winter preparation, spring moderation
Besides supplementation during winter, it is also important that the cattle gets into shape before winter. It is encouraged to avoid rushing to grass during spring times and it will have negative impact on reproduction. This is because early spring grass is very nutrient dense, causing the animals to not be able to absorb all the nutrients. It is highly recommended to add supplements during spring time in order to slow the passage rate and maintain energy levels.