Cattle Management: March timely tips

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Spring-Calving Cows
• Continue grass tetany prevention. Be sure that the mineral mix contains magnesium and that cows consume adequate amounts. You can feed the UK Beef IRM High Magnesium mineral.
• Obtain yearling measurements on bulls and heifers this month (weight, height, pelvic area, scrotal circumference, ultrasound data, etc.) if needed for special sales. Heifers should be on target to be cycling by the start of the breeding season.
• The spring calving season should be in full swing now, top priority should be to get a live calf and keep cows in sufficient body condition to rebreed early. Calving areas should be accessible and as clean and as free of mud as possible. Pastures which have good sod and are close to handling facilities work best.
• Check cows at least twice daily and first-calf heifers more frequently than that. Be ready to assist those not making progress after 1 to 2 hours of hard labor. Chilled calves should be dried and warmed as soon as possible.
• See that each calf gets colostrum within an hour of birth, or administer colostrum (or a commercial colostrum replacement) with an esophageal feeder, if needed.
• Identify calves with eartags and/or tattoos while calves are young and easy to handle and record birthdate and Dam ID. Commercial male calves should be castrated and implanted as soon as possible. Registered calves should be weighed in the first 24 hours.
• Separate cows that have calved and increase their feed. Energy supplementation to cows receiving hay is necessary to prepare them for rebreeding. For example, a 1250 lb cow giving 25 lb/day of milk would need about 25 lb of fescue hay and 5 lb of concentrate daily to maintain condition. If you need to go from a condition score of 4 to 5, you will need to add about 2 more lb of concentrate. Cows must be in good condition to conceive early in the upcoming breeding season.
• Watch for calf scours! If scours become a problem, move cows which have not calved to a clean pasture. Be prepared to give fluids to scouring calves that become dehydrated. Consult your veterinarian for advice and send fecal samples to diagnostic lab to determine which drug therapy will be most effective. Try to avoid feeding hay in excessively muddy areas to avoid contamination of the dams’ udders.
• Plan to vaccinate calves for clostridial diseases (Blackleg, Malignant Edema) as soon as possible. You might choose to do this at the prebreeding working in late April or early May.
• Finalize plans for your spring breeding program. Purchase new bulls at least 30 days before the breeding season – demand performance records and check health history including immunizations. Use visual evaluation and expected progeny differences (EPD’s) to select a bull that fits your program. Order semen now, if using artificial insemination.
• Prepare bulls for the breeding season. Increase feed if necessary to have bulls in adequate condition for breeding.

Fall-Calving Cows

• Bull(s) should be away from the cows now!
• Creep feed calves with grain, by-products or high quality forage. Calves will not make satisfactory gains on the dam’s milk alone after about 4 mos. of age – since there isn’t much pasture in March, fall calves need supplemental nutrition. Consider creep grazing on wheat pasture, if available. Calves can also be early-weaned.
• Calves intended for feeders should be implanted.
• Plan to pregnancy check cows soon.
• Consider adding weight and selling your fall calves as “heavy” feeder calves while prices are high. Keep them gaining! Prices are too high to waste time.

General

• If you have a dry, sunny day, use chain-link harrow to spread manure in areas where cattle have overwintered. This may be done in conjunction with renovation.
• Renovation and fertilization of pastures should be completed.
• Repair fences, equipment and handling facilities.
• Start thistle control. They can be a severe problem in Kentucky pastures. Chemical control must be done early to be effective.
• Watch for lice and treat if needed.

Source: Dr. Roy Burris, University of Kentucky Beef Specialist



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