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Winter Management
 of Beef Herds

The main goal in a beef operation is to obtain big, strong, and healthy calves in the spring. This can be achieved by following some basic management practices.

Pregnancy checks should be routine work. The idea is to minimize carrying non-pregnant cows in the herd. Maintaining open cows for the whole year will provide no return and therefore becomes a big drain on your profit. Successful operators usually add 15-18% of the cows in the herd each year in order to replace open and unsound cows or any cow that leaves the herd.

Proper handling of pregnant cows – Pregnant cows should not be subjected to stress such as rough handling or extreme disturbances. By using properly designed facilities, do all routine work such as vaccinations, worming, tagging, etc. during the fall.

Adequate Feeding – A dry pregnant cow weighing 1100 pounds needs 22 pounds of feed per day with about 1.3 pounds of crude protein. A lack of feed intake such as energy and protein will impair reproductive performance in beef cattle. During late pregnancy, the last 3 months, feed requirement increases because it is at this time when 70% of the fetal growth occurs. Underfed cows are slow to return to their normal heat cycles and have lower conception rates when bred.

Proper Feed Allocation – Forages and silages for beef should be tested to determine quality. Be sure you have enough feed on hand to carry animals over the winter months.

Use the poorer quality forages to feed the pregnant cows during their second trimester of gestation. Just before calving and during lactation, the animals should be given the higher quality forages. It is at this stage when demand for nutrients from the feed is high.

Thin cows should be put on a feeding program where they can gain an additional weight of 150-250 pounds over a 40-60 day period. A body condition score of 2-2.5 is an ideal target for beef cows at calving time. For normal fetal development, the bred cow or heifer should be gaining an average of .7 lbs. per day throughout the gestation period. Proper feeding is the key to this process.

Trace minerals, salt and phosphorous mixture should be provided at all times and selenium should be included in the mixture.

Adequate and proper housing – This includes space, bedding, light, maternity pen, calf creep area, and water supply.

Recommended space for each cow and heifer is 30 square feet inside the barn and 300 square feet of yard space. Barn height should be a minimum of 10 feet.

Plenty of bedding is essential to keep cattle dry and comfortable and to ensure cows will have clean udders that can prevent health problems.

Be sure that water bowls will not freeze to provide a continuous supply of water.

If you try to implement these points, your chances of succeeding in your operation is high. It can mean less problems in your herd. Calves will be growing fast and vigorously and therefore you will have an efficient and profitable operation.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006