Extension suggests beefing up nutrition for spring calves

With beef cattle breeding season beginning soon cattle should be receiving adequate nutrition, says a Texas Cooperative Extension specialist.

Although cattle are reproductively active throughout the year, spring is “ideal calving season” for most of Texas, says Joe Paschal of Corpus Christi, Extension livestock specialist.

With 13.8 million head, Texas ranks as the leading state for cattle and calves, according to the National Ag Statistics Service. About 70 percent to 75 percent are born during the spring.

Spring is the best calving time because more forage is available.

“Forage provides adequate nutrition to the cow and her calf through the milk,” Paschal says. To calve during the spring a cow must be bred about nine and a half months earlier, says Paschal.

The abundance of spring-born calves can affect the following fall market when the calves are weaned, Paschal says. “Early in September, the market rises as the demand for feeder calves increases. Then sometime in October, the demand is overwhelmed by the supply and prices begin to slip,” he says.

Calves are born all year, but Bruce Carpenter of Fort Stockton, Extension livestock specialist, says the rule of thumb for almost all of Texas is “do not calve in the summer: too hot, too stressful.” The exception is Far West Texas where summer rain and cool nights are normal.

“The key is to have cows enter the calving season in good body condition, no ribs showing,” Carpenter says. “After the cow has had a baby, it is usually too late to change her condition with supplemental feed.”

According to the Texas A&M University department of animal science Web site, http://animalscience.tamu.edu, body condition is a system used to judge a cow's nutritional condition. It is scored using a nine-point scale with one being very thin and nine being extremely fat.

“Basically, body condition is just gauging the level of fatness,” Paschal says. Body condition is also a factor to successful breeding.

“Cows in poor condition either at calving or breeding, do not have estrous cycles and the vast majority do not breed back,” Carpenter says. “If they do, they breed back late, becoming late calvers, placing them at risk next year.”

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