IDENTIFY A STARTING POINT KATIE VANVALIN, PhD TIMELY TIPS FOR SEPTEMBER
University of Kentucky
We have officially made it to November of 2020! My first year in extension will be one that I will not soon forget, but perhaps not for all of the reasons that I would have hoped for. For a short two and a half months when I started at the University of Kentucky, I was able to get out and meet producers, and my fellow colleagues in extension. That all came to a sudden and screeching halt in mid-March, and never in my wildest imagination did I think I would find myself still “socially distancing” come November. So while this first year has been memorable, I hope that as I move into year two I can finally put faces to names that I have seen on our webinars, and be able to join you in your county extension offices or at a field day, rather than from my home office (i.e. my kitchen table). In challenging times, I think it is only natural to look to make quick fixes, so we can move past our challenges and return to easier times. In biology we have a term for this need to return to a steady or balanced state, it’s called homeostasis. Unfortunately, many problems that we face in the beef industry do not have a silver bullet or a simple and quick fix. However, often times there is a place to start and if we don’t start to solve a problem, it is not likely to fix itself. As a nutritionist when I think about how to efficiently manage an operation without a calving season, I find it to be difficult. Without a defined calving season, we can have cows calving all year long which means on any given day cows on a single operation can have drastically different nutrient requirements. The process of developing a calving season will take 1-2 years. However, the end result from a nutrition standpoint is that cows will have similar nutrient demands on any given day of the year. This means we can target nutrition to meet the nutrient demands of our whole herd without under or over feeding protein and energy to cattle based on their stage of production. While the process can be daunting there is an easy place to start: 1) Determine the time of 62
year you want to calve, 2) Remove the bull(s) from the cow herd. Another area that can seem overwhelming, but has a simple starting point is winter feeding. Even under the best of circumstances, the kind where we have an excellent forage management plan and mother nature generally works in our favor it would be downright difficult to avoid feeding harvested forages for at least a portion of the year. The nutritional value of forages can vary greatly, and unfortunately the smell or look of a harvested forage won’t tell us the whole nutritional story. The easy starting point for working with stored forages whether we are talking hay, baleage, or even corn silage is getting a nutrient analysis. This is the first piece of information that your county extension agent or nutritionist will need to help you come up with a plan for winter feeding. One thing that was very apparent to me upon my return to the Bluegrass this year, was just how fortunate we are to have such a robust cooperative extension service. If testing your forages is not a common practice on your operation, I encourage you to reach out to your county extension office. From proper sample collection, and selection of the appropriate laboratory analysis, they can help to make this first step an easy one. However, help doesn’t stop with just delivering your analysis results because an analysis is just a piece of paper. The analysis alone won’t fix any nutritional deficits, but help is also available with interpreting the results and development of a supplement to fill in any nutritional “gaps”. While 2020 has been a difficult year on many fronts, I hope that these couple of examples show you that some daunting challenges can be overcome by knowing where to start. Regardless of the size of the challenge, there is always a place to start in order to make improvements. I can’t wait for the days when we can all safely gather in person, but until then I wish you all safety and health.
COW COUNTRY •
SPRING-CALVING COW HERD
Pregnancy diagnose cows if you have not already done so. Culling decisions should be made prior to winter feeding for the best use of feed resources. Open, poor-producing, and aged cows should be considered as candidates for culling.
Continue to watch fall-calving cows. Catch up on calf processing including identification, castration, and vaccinations.
If you need to replace cows, consider buying bred heifers in some of the Kentucky Certified Replacement Heifer sales that are being held across the state this month. Extend the grazing season for as long as possible in order to reduce stored feed needs. Evaluate body condition of cows. Sort thin (less than CS5) cows away from the cow herd and feed to improve their condition. Two and three-year olds may need extra attention now. Dry cows in good condition can utilize crop residues and lower quality hay now (but don’t let them lose any more body condition). Save higher quality feed until calving time. Keep a good mineral supplement with vitamin A available. Feeding calves during the postweaning period allows an opportunity for rapid and economical gains on weaned calves. Keeping them through the fall “runs” allows you to participate in the pre-conditioned sales such as the Kentucky CPH-45 program. Be sure to verify the requirements of any preconditioned sale. Pay attention to replacement heifers during the winter! They need to be on track to reach their “target” breeding weight (2/3 of mature body weight) by May 1.
Cows that have calved need to go to the best pastures now! This will help them to maintain body condition prior to breeding in December. Vaccinate the cows while they are open and prior to the breeding season. Start the breeding season in late November or early December for calving to begin in September. Don’t forget to schedule a Breeding Soundness Evaluation (BSE) on your bulls! This should be required before every breeding season! If you are using AI and/or estrous synchronization, get your supplies together now and schedule your technician. GENERAL Get your hay tested! It’s important to know the nutrient content of your stored forages in order to determine the amount of supplementation needed. Consider purchasing supplemental feed now. Take soil tests and make fertility adjustments (phosphate, potash and lime) to your pastures. This is a good time to freeze-brand bred yearling heifers and additions to the breeding herd. Don’t waste your feed resources. Avoid excessive mud in the feeding area. Hay feeding areas can be constructed by putting rock on geotextile fabric. Feed those large round bales in hay “rings” to avoid waste. Concrete feeding pads could be in your long-range plans. Graze alfalfa this month after a “freezedown” (24 degrees for a few hours).
• A P U B L I C AT I O N O F T H E K E N T U C K Y C AT T L E M E N ’ S A S S O C I AT I O N