Challenge #1: Fly control
Flies can be tricky, especially as spring turns to summer. One way to effectively combat horn flies is to use a feed-through fly control, which can be found in certain cattle minerals.
Once a cow consumes a fly control mineral, it functions through the manure the cow excretes. Insect growth regulator (IGR) passes through the cow and into the manure where horn flies lay their eggs. IGR breaks the horn fly lifecycle in the manure by preventing pupae from developing into biting adult flies.
The key to season-long fly control is starting early. Offer fly control mineral 30 days before the last frost in the spring. This rule of thumb ensures cows consume IGR before horn flies appear and multiply. Continue feeding fly control mineral for 30 days after the first frost in the fall to prevent horn flies from overwintering.
Challenge #2: Cows breeding back
A big factor in spring breeding success is a cow's body condition score (BCS) when she calves. To support rebreeding, target mature cows to calve at a BCS 6.
If cows aren't in BCS 6 at calving, you're playing catch-up after the fact. The catch-up approach often means it's too late to impact the current breeding cycle.
It’s never too late to focus on the next breeding season.
The period from weaning to about 90 days before calving is the best time to pay close attention to BCS and your nutrition program. At three months prior to calving, it's hard to add condition economically.
Challenge #3: Grass tetany
Cattle are at their greatest risk of grass tetany in spring when conditions typically include cloudy skies, cool soil and lush quickly growing cool-season grasses. Luckily, grass tetany is preventable, and you can implement strategies to help manage your risk.
Feeding magnesium supplements can help address magnesium deficiencies associated with lush spring grass. Offer high-magnesium mineral two to three weeks before cattle are first exposed to lush grass to achieve consistent intake before the time of highest risk. Continue feeding for 60 days after the first sign of grass growth.
Another strategy to manage risk includes grazing less susceptible young cows on the highest risk pastures and holding older lactating cows off pasture until grasses are four to six inches tall.
Challenge #4: Grass quality or quantity
It's easy to get excited about a little bit of green grass in the spring, but there may not be enough volume to support a cow's increasing requirements. Cows will run for green grass and burn more energy searching for grass than what they'll consume. The energy deficit can result in lost body condition.
Provide your cows free-choice hay and supplement early until grass is lush and plentiful. Offer hay and continue feeding it long enough for cows to achieve a BCS 6 at calving and no less than a BCS 5.5 at breeding.
Complement hay with a self-fed supplement containing intake control properties, which allows cattle to decide if they need additional energy and protein. Cows won't consume much supplement if forage is meeting their requirements and will consume more supplement if forage is not.
Does your cattle nutrition program stack up? Find out with a Proof Pays feeding trial.