Linneen provides considerations for cattle producer during late winter, early spring
As cow/calf producers look toward spring and continue through calving season, Elanco Beef Cattle Technical Consultant Sara Linneen explained that nutrition and health should be top concerns for ranchers.
“Some general priorities in the spring include nutrition, health and production,” says Linneen. “Our nutrition focus should be on the protein-energy balance, and this time of year, we should also think about implanting calves.”
Body condition scores
As a top priority for producers, Linneen suggests producers should pay particular attention to body condition scores of their cows.
“Body condition score is critical to predicting and giving us a quantitative look at cow nutritional status,” she describes. “The body condition score our cows calve in is highly indicative of their future reproductive success.”
While 2019’s spring-calving cows have little opportunity to improve their condition, Linneen notes late spring- or fall-calving cows should be assessed.
“We can’t do much for this year’s cows because we are currently in or quickly approaching calving season,” Linneen notes, saying body condition score is vital for both calf and cow survival.
“As we focus on cow nutritive balance, we talk about supplying enough protein and energy,” she says. “We talk about energy in terms of total digestible nutrients (TDN) for forage-fed animals.”
To consider whether protein and energy are sufficient, Linneen noted it is important to look at energy requirements as they relate to stage of pregnancy or the number of months since calving.
“At one to two months after calving, in peak lactation, the cows have the highest energy requirements,” she explains. “That declines through weaning and then comes back up as cows go through gestation.”
Protein requirements mirror energy requirements and the stage of gestation.
When considering forage requirements, Linneen encourages producers to consider the forage type, as well.
“Often, as we shift from supplementing the cow and feeding stored feeds, forage starts to green up,” she says. “In early maturing forages, we see high nutritive value. The key is to know what they are high in.”
For example, plants that are high in moisture and protein may be low in energy.
Linneen explains, “Forages might be so high in moisture, the cow can’t consume enough to meet her energy requirements, which creates a nutritive gap as we shift from the supplementation program or grazing dormant grasses in the winter to grazing really lush forage.”
“Understanding what our forages have to offer is important,” she continues.
To assess forage value, Linneen notes producers should sample forages and evaluate both protein and nutrient requirements.
Shortly after calving, producers begin considering whether or not to implant, says Linneen, who notes Superior Livestock Auction data supports the assertion that implanting creates value along every step of the production chain.
“Suckling steer calves are implanted between two and three months of age,” Linneen says. “At that point, there’s an increase in live weight of about 18 pounds, which is a five percent improvement valued at $16.”
The average advantage for stocker calves is 33 pounds, and feedyard cattle see a 75-pound boost from implants.
“Implanting overall adds 130 pounds, so the return on investment is very good,” she comments. “It’s also a very consistent technology.”
With implanting, however, producers cite two fears – ability to sell cattle and hormone influence.
“There is a fear producers will not earn as much at the sale barn if they sell implanted calves versus non-implanted calves,” Linneen describes.
“We’ve looked at years of Superior Livestock data on sale barn animals,” she says, “and we found that implants do not reduce the price of calves at the sale barn. Really, it’s a myth.”
“We hear a lot of feedback about the hormone content and concerns of hormones showing up in meat,” Linneen says. “We’ve looked at a lot of research to ensure they’re safe.”
The hormone content of beef from implanted steers is about 0.7 nanograms higher than non-implanted steers – a remarkably small amount.
“Keep in mind, there are hormones in other products we consume that are naturally occurring,” she explains. “For example, potatoes have 450 nanograms, and the soy products used to make coffee drinks are much, much higher than that.”
Linneen notes, “We respect the concern for hormones but see a rather minute difference between implanted animals and non-implanted animals when it comes to the meat we consume.”
Linneen notes, as producers continue to look at the next steps of their operation, the health of cattle is important, and she says, “Producers should have access to as many tools as possible to maintain the health and productivity of the herd.”
Linneen presented as part of CattleFax’s recent Trends+ webinar.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.