Managing Cow Nutrition as We Head Into Calving Season

Everyone wants their cow-calf herd to make it through the winter in good condition and ready to calve and breed back. But do we understand what it takes to make that happen? In this piece, Travis Mulliniks and TL Meyer describe what what good body condition is, how gestational changes affect nutrition needs, the stress periods that require extra attention, and how to make sure animals are getting the feed they need. What Body Condition Do We Want? On a scale of 1 to 9, a calving BCS of 5 to 6 is considered optimal at calving. Weather changes and forage availability can make achieving an optimum BCS 60 to 90 days before calving difficult. A mild winter may result in most cows being BCS 5 or greater, whereas a harsh winter may result in cows calving at BCS less than 5. Measuring BCS in the winter can be deceiving due to gut fill of low-quality forage, winter hair coat, or environmental conditions. Thin cows with increased gut fill of low-quality forages can be mistaken as being in better condition than they truly are. Long winter hair coats can mask prominent ribs or the vertebrae, landmarks used in scoring body condition. After a winter storm, cows can also look thinner than they actually are with a shrunk appearance due to a lack of water and forage intake. If you're not familiar with Body Condition Scoring, here's a review of the basics to get you started. We also provide pictures here. Click on the photo of the BCS you're interested in to see more pictures you c

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