The calves are weaned, what’s next?

Profit margins in the cow calf business have become quite slim this year. Here are three main reasons that the time immediately after weaning is a great time to add condition to your cows, for very little investment.

November 9, 2016

3 Min Read
The calves are weaned, what’s next?

Many of you with spring calving herds have probably already weaned this year’s calves, or, you are about to. Profit margins in the cow calf business have become quite slim this year. It has been said that most anyone could make money in the cow-calf business in 2014. This year, we will need a sharp pencil to make a good profit, and next year will likely be the same.

Looking to next year’s calf crop:

Today is a good day to start preparing the cow herd for calving out the 2017 calf crop. October and November are great months to put low cost gain on your cow herd, ahead of winter. 

Three reasons to put weight on your cows this Fall:

There are three main reasons that the time immediately after weaning is a great time to add condition to your cows, for very little investment.

  1. Those cows are no longer lactating. Lactation takes a large portion of energy each day for a cow. The priorities for partitioning energy from the diet in a beef cow, are first, for maintenance, then lactation, and then gain. By removing the lactation energy requirement, you immediately push all that energy in to gain.

  2. In number 1 above, we briefly mentioned a cow’s maintenance energy requirement. Maintenance energy requirements increase as temperatures increase or decrease from a cow’s thermal neutral zone. The thermal neutral zone is a moving target that is greatly impacted by hair coat, moisture and wind, just to name three variables. For the purpose of this article, I believe most would agree that cow’s maintenance energy requirements will be lower with the temperatures we see in October and November, versus January or February. This lower maintenance energy requirement frees up more energy for weight gain.

  3. While the maintenance energy requirements are lower in November versus January due to warmer temperatures, a Spring calving cow will also have lower fetal energy requirements during gestation in the Fall than she will next spring, prior to calving. Here again, this means more of her daily energy intake can go to weight gain today, versus 2-3 months from now.

The vast majority (70%) of fetal weight gain occurs in the last 3 months of gestation. This is a very challenging time to try to add condition to your cows. Unfortunately, this is the time when many cattlemen are paying more attention to their cows, as they are likely feeding them stored forages, and we budget more time to pay attention to the herd as we near calving. Trying to add condition at this time of the year is not impossible, it will just cost you more than it would have in the Fall. So, plan ahead and put that extra condition on now, before the opportunity is gone.

While cows will generally gain weight in the Fall after calving, most forages are of poorer quality this time of year. They will respond greatly to even a little protein supplementation. Protein supplementation of low quality forage (whether grazed or fed in bales) will increase the digestibility (energy release) and intake (even more energy available to the cow). Many cattlemen refer to this as stretching their forage.

Cattlemen are very busy in the fall and supplementing the cow herd may not be at the top of the priority list. This is well understood. You should remember that self-fed protein supplements are an excellent way to maximize your returns from a supplement program that’s available 24/7, while also minimizing the equipment and labor needed to get it done. 

For more information about the CRYSTALYX® line of protein self-fed supplements, visit


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