During fall calving season, it is more important than ever to take a look at your beef cattle’s nutrition, according to Dr. Brandon Dominguez with Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in the Bryan Eagle. Less than ideal nutrition can lead to multiple conditions, including decreased body condition, lower pregnancy rates, difficulty calving, less milk produced, decreased weaning weights and lower fertility.
The first thing to do is assess the nutritional status of your herd if you have not done so. All cattle should be scored on a scale of 1-9 with 1 being very thin and 9 being obese. Most cattle should be a 5 or 6 on this scale depending on the time of the year. Next determine the amount of nutrition required to maintain that body condition. There are multiple online calculators that can determine the nutrient needs but instead of using those consult with your veterinarian because they know your herd. Also, most state agriculture services will be helpful with this calculation. Grass and hay should be tested for nutrient content. Cows need to eat about 2-3% of their body weight a day, which would be 20-30 pounds for a 1,000-pound cow. Dr. Dominguez says protein is the critical portion of the ration as the microbes in the cows' rumen need protein to function efficiently. You don’t really feed the cow but you feed the microbes in the rumen and these microbes digest the feed for use by the cow. Supplementing protein may be needed since this can increase the digestibility of the forages and will cause the cattle to eat more feed. When they eat more high-quality feed, they will also be eating enough to take care of many other nutrients needed in the diet.