10 common cattle questions
1. Q: What are the important features of a cattle mineral I should be evaluating when purchasing it?
A: There are a couple features to consider when evaluating minerals. Does the mineral provide a good balanced mineral program that will meet the nutrient needs of your herd? There are many supplements available. Your supplement needs to match the nutrient requirements of your herd. What is the intake level required to meet herd nutrient requirements? Mineral supplements are available in a wide range of expected intakes. It is important that the cattle consume the mineral at the expected rate in order to meet cattle requirements. Minerals need to be palatable enough that the cows will consume the correct amounts, while not being too palatable that the cattle over consume mineral.
2. Q: How many pounds of cattle cubes should my cattle eat per day?
A: The amount of cubes needed will depend on the body condition of the cows and the forage quality. Lower quality forages will need to be supplemented with more cubes. Also, if the cows are thin, more cubes will need to be fed in order to get them to an acceptable body condition prior to calving. In most cases the cows will need between 3 - 5 pounds of cubes per head per day. A good rule of thumb for budgeting purposes is a 50 pound bag of cubes will feed 10 thin cows or 15 cows in good body condition.
3. Q: When should I start weaning my calves?
A: Most producers start to wean their calves around 6 months of age. This can vary depending on forage conditions and when the calves are going to be marketed. In many cases the calves are weaned 45 - 60 days prior to marketing to get them off to a good start so they look their best for sale day.
4. Q: How often should I check my mineral feeders?
A: Mineral feeders should be checked at least once per week. If you have not fed minerals for a while, you will need to check and fill more frequently until the cows have settled in to a stable mineral intake. Once mineral intakes are stabilized checking mineral feeders on a weekly basis should be sufficient.
5. Q: Should I consider creep feeding my calves?
A: Creep feeding 60 days prior to weaning should be considered for a couple of reasons. During the later stages of nursing milk production is decreasing. At the same time the calves are growing so there is a difference between available nutrients and what is needed to optimize calf growth. In addition, calves that have been creep fed, will usually wean easier because they are already accustomed to feeding equipment and eating feeds other than forages and milk.
6. Q: What is the best vaccination program for my calves?
A: This would depend on your local area and previous disease history on your farm. It is always a good idea to vaccinate your calves. Please contact your local veterinarian to help you design a vaccination program that best fits your herd health situation and goals.
7. Q: How much feed should I provide my cows during calving season?
A: This would depend on your cow body condition and forage quality. During the calving season the cow's nutrient requirements are going to double soon after calving. You will need to have a feeding program designed to meet this increased demand so your cows do not lose condition. Remember that cows need to rebreed around 90 days after calving in order to maintain a yearly calving cycle. In order to rebreed the cows will need to have a body condition score of 5 or 6.
8. Q: Do my cows need different minerals during calving season?
A: This is one of the most important times of the production cycle to provide a good balanced mineral program. Minerals are very important for problem free calving and the initiation of reproduction after calving. A good balanced mineral program will help the start of estrus cycles prior to the breeding season.
9. Q: How much milk should my cows produce during lactation for their calves to be healthy?
A: Each cow will produce different amounts of milk. I don't know that there is a minimum amount of milk that needs to be produced in order to keep calves healthy. More important is that the cows are on a good health program, with adequate protein, energy and minerals to maximize cholostrum quality. A good dose of high quality cholostrum at birth will help the calf get off to a healthy start.
10. Q: Should I have my forages tested?
A: What should I seek for the tests to provide? It is a good idea to test at least part of your forages to get a good idea of basic forage quality. Most forage testing labs have a basic testing package that includes protein, and estimation of energy and macro minerals. This information can then be used to design a supplementation program that will meet cow requirements while utilizing as much forage as possible in the most efficient way possible for your individual operation.
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