Want Efficient Cows? Feed Them Well

Specialist says proper nutrition is essential to healthy winter herd

Published on: Nov 26, 2013

With winter months ahead, keeping an eye on herd body condition will be essential to easy calving and re-breeding, a Texas A&M beef cattle specialist told a group of producers at the South Central Texas Cow-Calf Clinic recently.

Dr. Jason Cleere said lack of proper nutrition can hamper re-breeding efforts on a cow-calf operation.

"Nutrition is extremely important to the cow-calf operation," Cleere said. "The way we manage cattle to calve at two years of age and have a calf every year, you've got to have some nutritional management out there for them."

Cleere said one of the most important things producers should do is look at the body condition of their cows.

Dr. Jason Cleere, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist, College Station, discusses the importance of nutrition in beef cattle and how it can impact calving. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)
Dr. Jason Cleere, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist, College Station, discusses the importance of nutrition in beef cattle and how it can impact calving. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

"The effect of body condition score on pregnancy rates is significant," he said. "Research indicates that cows should be at least a body condition score of five at calving to achieve optimum re-breeding rates.

However, he said, the best time to be looking at body condition score would be when you wean your calves so that nutritional management decisions can be made prior to calving.

"You should look at it year round, and especially during the winter feeding period to make sure the cattle are being supplemented properly," he said.

Cleere said body condition score also impacts how much money cull cows will bring when sold.  He demonstrated a cow with a body condition score of two with a value of $50-$60 per hundredweight. A cow with a body condition score of six was worth $75-$85 per hundredweight.

"If we compare the two values on these cows, it equals $920 to $495 in difference between the cows," Cleere said. "The heavier cow weighs 1,150 pounds versus 900 pounds on the thin cow. When it comes to making culling decisions due to drought, if we let those cows get too thin and calve, it's going to hurt reproduction rates. If it didn't rain and we had to sell, we have animals a lot less valuable if you let them get too thin. Some tried to squeeze the value out of their cows and skimp on feeding."

Cleere advised monitoring cows throughout the year to not only optimize reproduction, but to have cattle in condition to bring added dollars if forced to decrease cow numbers.

Source: Texas A&M