Skinny Cows Make Fatter Calves

For decades, cattle producers have been told that providing enough feed to their cows and their developing heifers is critical for ensuring high pregnancy rates. But researchers at the Agricultural Research Services Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory have found that’s not necessarily so. The results of their long-term study show that heifers fed 27% less over the winter months gain weight more efficiently on pasture, are more resilient when forage is marginal or scarce, have pregnancy rates similar to cows fed a typical diet, and wean calves just as big as their well-fed counterparts. Just as importantly, these skinnier heifers pass on these traits of resilience and efficien

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2 thoughts on “Skinny Cows Make Fatter Calves

  1. When Gearld Fry was around 65 he told me an OLD rancher from Montana told him, “Sonny, the wisest thing you can do is try to starve your replacement heifers the first winter of their life.”

  2. Thanks, Kathy for such useful info.
    Reassuring on two fronts:
    —That an informed tolerance for “nutritional stress” during winter may help me select mothers and daughters more suited to a life on forages alone. And may decrease financial stress by buying, hauling and feeding a bit less hay.
    —My family members who don’t feed our cattle in winter, when they tell me at bedtime a few cattle are bawling for more, I’ll feel more comfortable waiting ’til morning.

    Question: We go back and forth on whether to winter dry cows and heifers together. What could this research say about feeding them as a single group in winter? (I’m OK with identifying early the few heifers who don’t fit our system.)

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