Farm Talk


October 2, 2013

Window of opportunity for thin cows

Parsons, Kansas — Plan ahead because now is the time to think about those thin cows, not next winter prior to calving.

In a broad sense, a moderately milking 1,300-pound cow would like to eat about 30 pounds of good, green hay a day prior to weaning. After weaning, that same cow only would need 26 to 27 pounds of that same hay. In other words, the cow is no longer milking and does not need the feed, so take it away from the well-conditioned cows and give it to the thin cows.

Each fall, there is a window of opportunity to evaluate cow condition and improve those cows that are thin. All summer long, the cow has been busy nursing a calf and converting grass to milk. In the process, she probably has used up needed body reserves producing milk. Her fate in the herd already has been set. If she is pregnant, she will be here next year. If she’s open, she will be transferred out as market beef.

The point is that the cow needs to do the same thing year after year. Her ability to give birth, to raise a calf and rebreed depends on her ability to sustain her own well-being. The best sustenance for continued performance is to put condition on the thin cows.

There are two very important points: Cows that are thin now will be thin to thinner in the spring if adequate nutrition is not increased now. Also, thin cows do not compete well with cows that are in better condition.

The point that thin cows do not compete and need more feed needs to be written on the barn wall, painted on the pasture fences and noted on all your paperwork.

Why now? Because most cows are entering the second trimester of pregnancy, their milk production is decreasing and the weather is nice. Better yet, for the thin cows, pull or early wean their calves to shut off milk production. As a dry cow, weight gain will be easier to attain, especially with good fall weather.

As a producer, what you do not want to do is compete with harsh winter weather and put weight on cows in their third trimester. The cold nights and dry grass will fight you all the way. In the end, the cows at calving are thinner than they were at weaning. This is something you just cannot let happen because waiting until spring to add weight at calving is even more difficult.

What can we do? Visit with a good nutritionist and apply common sense. Standing fall forage or crop aftermath are excellent nutritional sources. With limited supplementation, dry cows will gain condition.

Also, if space and time permit, sort out the thin cows. In most herds, most cows are moderately conditioned and doing fine, while others are on the fat side, if not even overweight. These groups of cows need to be handled and fed differently. The most practical solution is to split the herd at weaning into at least two groups.

Cows that are thin and showing no fleshiness and some obvious rib and bone structure need to be sorted off. These cows are more than likely some of the more productive cows in the cow herd because they put their bodies into raising good calves. Their milk production warrants the extra feed and the need to recoup is real.

In addition to these thins cows, younger and old cows also may be added to this group or grouped by themselves because they are not very high in the pecking order. Mature, bossier cows will dominate their portion of the forage and supplements.

The second group should be the better-conditioned mature cows and should be fed accordingly. This group does not require the greater degree of supplementation.

There is a third group, which is the fat cows. In herds that don’t have good records, there can be a significant number of poor-producing cows that don’t milk well and simply keep their calf company for the summer.

Don’t get me wrong. They are good mothers, but they tend to produce light calves. Granted, this also is a function of frame, as some smaller-framed cows may flesh easily. However, take a good look at their calves. If they are not what you think they should be, those fat cows will sell well.

After all this thought, do something. The bottom line: Don’t wait. Fall is the time to bring the cows back into condition. If you are going to buy some supplement, put it where it needs to go.

Move the calves to the lot and split the cow herd. Those needing extra feed should be fed well. For those holding their own, just feed them. Thin cows will be thinner at calving unless you do something now.

May you find all your ear tags. £

Text Only
  • Stockers015.jpg Pressure builds on cattle prices

    With boxed beef prices down sharply from the second rollercoaster high of the year, fed cattle prices may have peaked seasonally.  
    Fed prices are currently holding mostly steady near $150/cwt. but will likely decrease into May as fed cattle marketings increase seasonally. Cattle slaughter typically increases from April through May to seasonal peaks in June.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • calving-season_ksu.jpg Shortening breeding and calving seasons

    Calves born in the first 21 days of the calving season are often the heaviest in their contemporary group at weaning, and that advantage often carries through to harvest, if the producer retains ownership.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • heifers-peel-052_fixed.jpg Late spring adds to cattle challenges

    A myriad of factors are at work in cattle and beef markets now. Spring has arrived according to the calendar but it isn’t obvious yet in many parts of the country. Cold weather continues to delay grass green-up in many regions in a fashion that is reminiscent of last year.

    April 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Beef Talk: Are your cows ready to rebreed?

    The question of the day: Are the cows ready to breed? I hope the nutritional plan is in place and the cows are doing fine. Although nutritional adjustments can be made if needed, precalving should be a time of contentment for the cow, so all she needs to do is enjoy late-term pregnancy.

    March 25, 2014

  • How much is a good bull worth?

    I often get the question “How much should I pay for a bull?” My first answer is “Whatever the market will bear.”

    March 18, 2014

  • cull-cows.jpg Slaughter cow market following seasonal pattern — only more so

    Boning cow prices in Oklahoma City were reported at just over $102/cwt. in the first week of March. This level suggests that March slaughter cow prices will exhibit a more than seasonal price increase.

    March 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hollis_ksu.jpg Anaplasmosis a stealthy profit-robber

    For a disease that’s not contagious, anaplasmosis sure gets around.
    Speaking to a whole passle of beef producers at last week’s Animal Health Day in Independence, Kan., K-State Veterinarian Larry Hollis urged area cattlemen to get the costly disease in their sights.

    March 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Livestock indemnity program retro-funded to Oct., 2011

    USDA announced it will expedite the implementation of its livestock disaster assistance program and will begin accepting applications on or near April 15.

    February 25, 2014

  • charherfcow.jpg Ark. cattle numbers up despite trend

    Arkansas cattle numbers are recovering nearly two years after the start of a drought that caused $128 million damage to the state’s beef industry, while national numbers plummet to their lowest levels in more than 60 years.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Champions picked at Kansas Angus Futurity Jr. Show

    February 11, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Seasonal Content