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This has been a great year for forage production in our part of the country. We’ve had plenty of grass for the grazing season with lots to spare for hay-making. We still have accumulated fescue pasture which can be grazed this winter.
So what’s the problem? It’s the delayed effects of poor nutrition. Last winter we were suffering from a feed shortage caused by two consecutive years of drought conditions which caused most of us to maintain our cows in less than optimum conditions. Cows that come out of the winter in less than desired body condition had decreased pregnancy rates. Pregnancy rates for spring calving cows are lower than usual this year.
What should we do? First pregnancy check the cow herd to identify open cows. Then plan ahead for your winter feeding program to avoid a repeat of this year. Plan to give cows some supplemental feed from calving time until grass is adequate to maintain good body condition going into the next breeding season.
Calculate your hay needs and be sure your supply is adequate. It should be. Hay is cheaper this year if you need to purchase some. You still have time to construct a feeding pad with geotextilefabric and gravel to minimize waste. Estimate your supplemental feed needs now and make purchases prior to winter.
What can you do with open cows after weaning? The obvious answer is to sell them. However, you might feed them long enough to put some weight on them before hauling them to market. But open cows still need a good dose of “trailermycin”.
Thin, bred, cows, especially young ones, need to regain body condition prior to the winter period. This can be done by sorting them off and putting them on some good accumulated fescue pasture. We must have these cows in good body condition by the 2010 spring breeding season (early May).
You could also keep a few more heifers to replace some of the cows that were liquidated in the previous two years. Also, consider a short, postweaningfeeding (preconditioning) period for your feeder calves instead of taking them from the cow to market. You can still consign to CPH-45 sales, if you hurry.
I think that we should routinely “carry over” some hay which has been stored inside. Remember to feed your outside hay first and, hopefully, you will have some hay left over which is inside and could be used in case a pasture/hay shortage next year. You don’t have to “zero-out” your hay supply this winter, if some of it is stored inside.
The low pregnancy rates of this year might be a surprise to you but I have observed over several years that “wet years will disappoint you and dry (not drought) years will surprise you”. We must also realize that cows which are moderate in size and milking ability have a better chance of rebreeding after times of limited feed than their larger, heavy milking counterparts do.
Finally, everyone needs something to think about or reflect upon. I recently heard someone say that “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care”. If you are in a position to offer advice, you should keep that in mind.