Early Spring Nutritional Requirements of the Breeding Herd
Calving has progressed in many areas as early spring approaches bringing a new set of challenges to the breeding herd. Fluctuating temperatures, wet snow and mud will create extra demands on cow nutrition and health before ample grazing conditions begin. During the early spring, nutritional support will be necessary to offset the stress of wet and cold conditions the breeding herd will be facing.
Lactation, Re-breeding and Development of Fetal Tissues
Since re-breeding will begin in the March-April period, focus on cow nutrition should be a primary focus to maintain adequate body condition, good milk production and strong cycling. Feeding the cow to support not only her body condition but addressing the nutrient needs of the fetal calf especially during the first trimester of gestation is critical to optimum calf development.
Good Rumen Function Helps
RumaCell from Pacer Technology maintains good rumen function by supporting the microbial populations in the digestive system of the rumen and intestine for efficient nutrient digestion and adsorption needed for lactation, body condition and animal reproduction. When rumen function is optimized, microbial protein and volatile fatty acid production can better support the major nutritional needs of the cow when she needs them for good lactation and strong estrus and breeding.
Optimum rumen function will help:
Support the extra energy needs during the wet and cold conditions common in early spring
Provide adequate cow nutrition for milk production and maintenance of body condition
Get cows cycling early so they re-breed on their first cycle
Provide the right nutrition during the first 30-60 days of fetal development when most fetal tissue develops
Nutrient Needs During Cold, Windy and Wet Weather
Early spring creates tremendous stress on cows and calves in cold, wet and muddy conditions. Most nutritional requirements on beef cows are based on mild 30 to 60-degree F temperatures but the requirements increase substantially in cold, wet and windy conditions. The University of Oklahoma beef department has developed a simple way to calculate the additional feed requirements in adverse conditions:
Cold: Add 1% additional energy for every degree F the wind chill is below 32-degree F.
Wind: Add 2% additional energy for every degree F wind chill is below 59-degree F.
Cold, windy and wet: Add both cold and windy calculations together.
Muddy Conditions can Increase Energy Requirements by 10 Percent
Cattle dealing with muddy conditions after winter snow melt usually results in performance and health issues. Mud can depress feed intake by 15 percent versus what it would be under the same conditions without mud.
Mud and manure is notorious for harboring disease-causing microorganisms which grow rapidly in the warm spring weather. These pathogens can cause many issues in both cows and calves and must be monitored closely and treated with a targeted oral paste for the pathogen.
Foot rot is a common issue in wet, spring weather. The bacteria can live up to 10 months in unfrozen ground or manure. Foot rot is not the only microbial threat. Mud is also a good home for organisms that cause scours such as E. coli, Clostridium perfringens, salmonella, and the protozoa, cryptosporidium and coccidia.
The Nutritional Program During Early Spring
The forage program makes up the major portion of the feeding program and greatly influences the performance parameters of the beef herd. A good nutritional program that addresses each phase of production and environmental weather condition is very important.
Forage testing will take the guess work out of forage quality and a balanced supplementation program can be formulated to provide the missing nutrients needed during these demanding periods.
The additional nutritional demand of cold and wet spring weather can depress dry matter intake during this period of cycling and re-breeding when the cow’s nutritional requirement is high. This depression can seriously affect body condition, re-breeding and fetal development during the first 60 days of gestation.
Considerable research has shown that adequate nutrition of the fetus at the right time during pregnancy significantly impacts overall health and immunity of the calf. This concept of “fetal programming” is becoming a major management tool in cow herd management.
During the first trimester, implantation, placental growth, organ development and initial myogenesis (the formation of muscle tissue) begins. The research suggests calves will not perform to genetic expectations if nutrients are deficient at these times.
Energy is probably the most important nutritional element in beef cattle production since it is the fuel for growth and development, maintenance of body condition and metabolic functions of the animal. Cows need energy for milk production, maintaining body heat in cold weather as well as rebreeding and developing the fetal calf tissues.
Protein is the second limiting nutrient in most beef cow rations and is the principal building block of most tissues. Without adequate amounts of protein in the diet, rumen function can be depressed, feed intake can drop, and overall digestive efficiency declines.
Vitamins, Minerals and Reproduction
Feeding the proper level of vitamins and minerals is essential for the growth, health and reproduction of beef cows and calves. Since vitamins and minerals are essential components for many specific metabolic functions, deficiencies can cause significant issues in growth, reproduction and health areas.
A vitamin, mineral supplementation program which provides the correct balance of nutrients with the forage program is the best bet for meeting the vitamin, mineral requirements of the cow herd.
Upgrade Your Nutritional Program with RumaCell
Research shows RumaCell will help optimize rumen function and efficiency helping the cow get more nutrients out of her feed. This is especially important during times of high nutrient demand such as the last 90 days of gestation, re-breeding and lactation.