Cattle prices have many producers considering herd expansion in the years ahead, one beef cattle specialist explains the impact proper nutrition has on the cow-calf operation.

Dr. Jason Cleere, beef cattle specialist with AgriLife Extension, says poor herd nutrition can affect cattle breeding and he encouraged producers at the South Central Texas Cow-Calf Clinic in Brenham to monitor body condition of their cattle to maintain healthy cows.

“Nutrition is extremely important to the cow-calf operation,” Cleere said. “The way we manage cattle to calve at two years of age and have a calf every year, you’ve got to have some nutritional management out there for them.”

Cleere noted body condition scoring and manure samples as two methods to ensure cattle are receiving the nutritional diet they need. Body condition scoring rates an animal on a scale of 1, very thin, to 10, very fat. Research shows re-breeding rates are higher in cows scoring at least a “5.”

Producers should follow the scoring guide continuously as it has a strong influence on the cow’s pregnancy rate, but says some dates are of key importance.

“The best time to be looking at body condition score would be when you wean your calves so that nutritional management decisions can be made prior to calving,” he said. “You should look at it year round, and especially during the winter feeding period to make sure the cattle are being supplemented properly.”

Cattle with a higher BCS not only have higher re-breeding rates, they also sell at higher values when producers decide to cull. Cleere says cattle with a BCS of six will be worth about $25 per hundredweight more than a cow with a score of two. The difference in sale prices should be considered as producers determine feeding budgets.

Aaron Berger, University of Nebraska Extension Educator, says feed costs account for between 40% and 70% of the annual cow costs involved in producing a weaned calf. The cost of feed should include the nutritional value, as well as the delivery and storage expenses, when selecting the proper feed for the herd.