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Friday, March 28, 2014

More than Milk: Nutrion during Lactation

by Chris Shelley

Beef operations strive to have every cow give birth each year. We think of this as a one-year system, but in reality, the cow must be ready to breed before this time. Average gestation length for cattle is around 282 days, leaving less than 83 days for cows to recuperate and be ready for breeding time. This short period from calving to breeding is called the postpartum interval.

A two-year-old heifer that has just had a calf for the first time will take longer to reach estrous again and be ready for breeding than older cows. These young mothers are going through their first lactation and still trying to grow themselves. Estrous cycles will be more likely to resume sooner if cattle have proper nutritional management.

Lactating cows require 35-50% more nutrients to produce the important milk for their calf. Restricting or limiting feed intake can reduce high feed costs but may not prove beneficial at this production stage. Researchers have found that if cattle do not get enough feed during lactation, they will have lower conception rates. Likewise, inadequate nutrient intake during lactation can decrease weaning weights.

Many cattle producers will save some of their best feeds for this time to ensure desired conception rates. Low quality forage alone will typically not be adequate to meet the requirements of cattle in this situation. However, feeds that are low in quality can be used in rations balanced to meet nutritional requirements. The following table will help give an idea of the differences in a lactation diet and a diet following weaning. These data are estimates and it is always best to balance a ration to meet the production goals that you have for your animals. Over feeding can raise your feed costs while under feeding may hurt the productivity of your herd. By balancing a ration you can meet your production needs without wasting feed.

For help with balancing a ration for your herd, contact your local extension office.

Farmland Official Trailer #2. Depiction on the life of a farmer.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Livestock Record Keeping

by Chris Shelley

Riding the range, feeding hungry animals, and calving are all iconic parts of the western cowboy way of life. Today, winning the west requires more than just turning the cows out to pasture and hoping for rain. At the end of the day, the sustainability of the operation may very well be dependent on a pencil and a piece of paper.

When record keeping and the dreaded B word – Budget – are brought up, it is common place for eyes to glaze over and drowsiness to set in. The reality of being a manager is that you need to “manage” your operation. Record keeping is one of the most important decision making tools available to you and if utilized properly can increase the efficiency of your operation. Just as any household budget, record keeping may fall into categories of worthless, valuable, and overwhelming, depending on what type and how much information you are keeping. A detailed record book may be of little value if it is too overwhelming of a task to tackle.

There are also three methods to establish a record keeping program. Pencil and paper, Excel spreadsheets, or computer software. Whichever method you prefer, the following are important measures that you can begin to collect to build your record keeping program. Although the information is tailored for a cattle operation, it will apply to other species as well.

Herd Inventory (Individual/Unique Identification)
o Cows
o Bulls
o Calves

Reproduction Records for each Breeding Female
o Breeding date
o Palpation records
o Calving dates
o Calving difficulty

Animal Condition
o Periodic Body Condition Scores on all breeding females
o Birth Weight and Weaning Weight for all calves

Health Records for each Animal
o Vaccination protocol
o Treatment date and drug used

Expense Report (Receipts)
o Feed
o Equipment
o Labor
o Lease Rental
o Medical Treatment
o Fuel

Income Report (Income/Sales Receipts)

Pasture Conditions

Colorado State University Extension provides many useful resources about record keeping. For more information visit CSU’s website for Ag. Business Management, stop by your local Extension Office, or call 970-332-4151.