Timely Tips

By : Dr. Les Anderson, Beef Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Spring-Calving Cows

* Observe spring-calving cows closely. Check cows at least twice daily and first-calf heifers more frequently than that. Be ready to assist those not making progress after 1 to 2 hours of hard labor. Chilled calves should be dried and warmed as soon as possible.

* See that each calf gets colostrum within an hour of birth, or administer colostrum (or a commercial colostrum replacement) with an esophageal feeder, if needed.

* Identify calves with eartags and/or tattoos while calves are young and easy to handle and record birthdate and Dam ID. Commercial male calves should be castrated and implanted as soon as possible. Registered calves should be weighed in the first 24 hours.

* Separate cows that have calved and increase their feed. Energy supplementation to cows receiving hay is necessary to prepare them for rebreeding. For example, a 1250 lb cow giving 25 lb/day of milk would need about 25 lb of fescue hay and 5 lb of concentrate daily to maintain condition. If you need to go from a condition score of 4 to 5, you will need to add about 2 more pounds of concentrate. Cows must be in good condition to conceive early in the upcoming breeding season.

* Watch for calf scours! If scours become a problem, move cows which have not calved to a clean pasture. Be prepared to give fluids to scouring calves that become dehydrated. Consult your veterinarian for advice and send fecal samples to diagnostic lab to determine which drug therapy will be most effective. Try to avoid feeding hay in excessively muddy areas to avoid contamination of the dams’ udders.

* Continue grass tetany prevention. Be sure that the mineral mix contains high levels (~15%) of

magnesium and that cows consume adequate amounts. You can feed the UK Beef IRM High Magnesium mineral.

* Plan to vaccinate calves for clostridial diseases (Blackleg, Malignant Edema) as soon as possible. You might choose to do this at the prebreeding working in late April or early May.

* Obtain yearling measurements on bulls and heifers this month (weight, height, pelvic area, scrotal circumference, ultrasound data, etc.) if needed for special sales. Heifers should be on target to be cycling by the start of the breeding season.

* Prepare bulls for the breeding season. Increase feed if necessary to have bulls in adequate condition for breeding. Obtain Breeding Soundness Evaluation (BSE) on bulls, even if they were checked last breeding season.

* Finalize plans for your spring breeding program. Purchase new bulls at least 30 days before the breeding. Order semen now, if using artificial insemination.

Fall-Calving Cows

* Bull(s) should be away from the cows now!

* Plan to pregnancy check cows soon. You can also blood test for pregnancy as early as 30 days after bull removal.

* Creep feed calves with grain, by-products or high quality forage. Calves will not make satisfactory gains on the dam’s milk alone after about 4 mos. of age – since there isn’t much pasture in March, fall calves need supplemental nutrition. Consider creep grazing on wheat pasture, if available. Calves can also be early-weaned. At the best least, be sure that feed bunks are low enough that calves can eat with the cows.

* Calves intended for feeders should be implanted.

* Consider adding weight and selling your fall calves as “heavy” feeder calves. Keep them gaining!


* Repair fences, equipment and handling facilities.

* If you have a dry, sunny day, use chain-link harrow to spread manure in areas where cattle have overwintered. This may be done in conjunction with renovation.

* Renovation and fertilization of pastures should be completed.

* Start thistle control. They can be a severe problem in Kentucky pastures. Chemical control must be done early to be effective.

* Watch for lice and treat if needed.

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