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Midwest/North: Spring considerations

Erika Lundy for Progressive Cattleman Published on 16 March 2018

Warmer weather has many of us thinking about green grass and the anticipation of a lighter workload while cow-calf pairs graze throughout the summer months. However, there are some important herd management practices to consider before that point.

  • Grass turnout. April is the last chance to develop a grazing plan for the year. Areas across the region remain in drought-like conditions, which most likely has stressed the plants. Turnout too early will impact season-long forage productivity.

    Separating pastures into multiple paddocks – even two paddocks – to start the season can help improve forage yields. Water sources should also be considered. It is advised that a water source be within 800 feet of any point of the paddock to promote uniform grazing.

  • Grass tetany. Lush, green forages often have a rapid uptake of potassium and low levels of magnesium (Mg) compared to other times of the growing season. Grass tetany is a result of low Mg intake at a time when lactating cows have a high Mg requirement.

    Prevention is easier than treatment. Feeding high-Mg minerals at a minimum of 30 days prior to grass turnout will aid in preventing grass tetany risks. However, high-Mg mineral is not always palatable, so intake should be closely monitored.

  • Breeding soundness exams (BSE). All bulls, even if they were recently purchased as “satisfactory breeders,” need to complete and pass BSE 30 to 60 days before turnout. If you are in a trichomoniasis-positive state, be sure this test is part of your standard BSE for nonvirgin bulls. Financially, a BSE is wise investment. Spending $30 to $50 for “breeding insurance” is a bargain compared to the $15,000 lost from open cows and no calves to sell.

  • Reproduction technologies. As the calving season winds down, development of a breeding season strategy should be in consideration. Less than 10 percent of U.S. cow-calf operations utilize reproductive technologies such as estrus synchronization or artificial insemination (A.I.).

    While labor is increased when implementing A.I., depending on bull prices and semen costs, A.I. might actually be a cheaper alternative. Using A.I. provides ways to make quicker genetic progress. Not ready to commit to A.I., but still want to take advantage of getting more females bred early? Consider using an estrus synch program but still utilize natural service.

As always, consult with the team of experts you have assembled, including your beef extension specialist, nutritionist and veterinarian.  end mark

Erika Lundy
  • Erika Lundy

  • Extension Beef Program Specialist
  • Iowa Beef Center - Iowa State University
  • Email Erika Lundy

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