When most people think about animal welfare, they do not picture cows and calves grazing contentedly on a lush green pasture. But animal welfare is an issue for the cow-calf segment of the beef industry, also.
"Green grass and beautiful weather is not what we deal with most of the year," said K.C. Olson, Kansas State University. Olson made a presentation at the International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare held May 19-21 in Manhattan, KS.
Welfare challenges for cow-calf producers revolve around making the cow fit her nutritional environment. Olson said producers do this by the way they arrange their production cycle, by the way they manage forage, and by the way they make cattle be successful in a nutrient-limited environment. Malnutrition can occur when stocking rates are too heavy or too light, when the production cycle is poorly conceived, and when a beef cow has the genetic wherewithal to exceed what the range environment is capable of delivering.
One way to match nutritional needs of the cow with nutrient availability is to reduce cow size. Olson said for every 200 lbs that are added to mature cow weight, producers add about 20% to a cow's maintenance requirements.
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Olson presents an interesting point of view on animal welfare and how cow-calf producers match cows to their environment to ensure proper care. What is the average size of your cow herd? How do you manage size and performance at your operation?