|Now Is Time to Consider Forage Supplements|
As summer comes to a close, I hope each of you has experienced a good year in forage production and was able to put up enough hay for the coming winter months. Also, this time of the year, you should turn your attention to how you will supplement that hay to keep your cattle or horses in the very best body condition during the upcoming winter.
I again encourage you to pull a forage sample and have it analyzed. Geared with this information, you can make the best and most economical decision for your winter supplementation program. Your county Extension agent or local Co-op employees can assist you in pulling these samples. A large number of producers miss an opportunity to supplement their cattle economically by not knowing the best product to use. With a forage sample, you can match the supplement with your forage status and cow status to best meet the nutritional needs of your cattle at the lowest cost. I will be more than happy to discuss the results with you and help you develop a good, sound nutritional program.
I would also like to take this time to encourage you to attend a producer meeting this fall. Each fall, several of our stores hold producer meetings to allow farmers the opportunity to gain valuable information and give them the opportunity to purchase products at a discounted price. Presentations concerning products, nutrition and animal performance will benefit even the most seasoned producer. Producers will also have the opportunity to ask questions concerning these areas. On this night, most stores will give you the opportunity to purchase product at the lowest cost of the year. Whether it’s animal health supplies, blocks, minerals or feed, you can be assured of the quality of the product and the service of the company who is promoting the product. If you are unsure if your local Co-op will be holding a producer meeting, contact the store and inquire.
I would also encourage you to evaluate your cattle herd. This is a very good time to consider culling older cows; cows with bad feet, udders or eyes; slow breeding cows and cows with bad dispositions. While cull cattle prices were strong during the summer, you may have kept some cattle that are excellent candidates to be sold before winter. I would consider any older cattle that lose considerable body condition each winter as good suspects to market first. Cattle that get thin in the winter stand a greater chance of raising smaller calves, rebreeding at a slower rate and getting down during the cold, rainy nights of winter. It is much better to cull those cows now while they are in better body condition and the market is strong versus waiting until winter.
I have also talked with several producers who are considering removing older cows and keeping replacement heifers from their herd. There are several advantages as well as some disadvantages from this practice. The biggest advantage is adding known genetics to your herd. If you have quality heifers with quality genetics, then you can produce a cow with a long future into your operation. With cull cattle prices being where they are, I would encourage you to consider the possibility of keeping replacement heifers and replacing older cows.
Another advantage to this practice is you don’t have to try to buy quality cattle to add to your herd. The number of quality cattle being offered is shrinking, making this a very tight market.
There are also several disadvantages to retaining heifers to add to your herd. The biggest two of these are nutrition and pasture separation. To be successful, a producer must feed heifers to meet their genetic potential. Heifers need to be provided a complete nutritional diet promoting frame, muscle and growth without promoting fat development. A big problem in heifer development is when producers get the heifers too fat and the results are heifers that will not breed or will not milk as heavily as you desire. A very strong mineral and vitamin program is recommended to keep heifers healthy and to promote reproductive performance in a timely manner.
The next biggest disadvantage is the need to have a separate pasture to keep the heifers. Heifers kept in the same pasture as cows tend to be smaller, get bred earlier and have a bigger problem rebreeding due to poor body.
With all this said, if a successful heifer program is developed, you will be very pleased with the overall improvement and consistency of your cattle herd.
Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist. He looks forward to hearing from you or visiting with you in the future.