Because condition at calving and breeding are so important, it may at first seem silly to begin worrying about condition in the latter part of summer. However, it must be remembered that there are few economical ways to increase body condition once winter has arrived. So, good body condition in the winter must depend on the nutritional program the previous summer. If in August, the cows are in good condition and are rapidly regaining weight lost the past winter, the program can run normally.
If, on the other hand, the past winter was severe and cows are still thin in August, with every likelihood that they will be thin going into the next winter, thought needs to be given about the most economical method of improving condition before winter. Weaning dates can be moved up; remember calves would be young and weaning weights will be reduced. A well-planned supplementation program may offer help. When forage is available, feeding small amounts of high protein supplements during late summer can efficiently increase weight and condition gain of spring calving cows. An Oklahoma State University trial gave encouraging results.
Feeding as little as .6 lb/head/day of soybean meal, (about 1.5 lb/head, 3 times per week) during August and September increased cow weight by 25 lb. and improved condition score by .67 units. A supplement level of 1 to 1.5 lbs per day of the soybean meal probably would have been more desirable and provided great weight increases. (Source : OSU Beef Cattle Manual; 3rd Edition). The important point is that during late summer and early fall, protein supplements can permit efficient increases in weight and body condition when adequate forage is available. If one waits until winter to try to increase cow weight and body condition, protein supplement alone will likely not be sufficient and larger amount of energy supplements and/or hay will be required.