I have to confess that I am a master procrastinator when it comes to Christmas holiday shopping. I admittedly do not like "Black Friday" shopping and do not perform well under the stress of last-minute shopping. There are tools available such as the internet available to assist shopping-challenged consumers such as me. However, the fact remains that there are potential long-term ramifications from poor planning when it comes to Christmas shopping!
If you think about it, there are some parallels that can be drawn between the Christmas shopping season and calving season for cow-calf producers. There is a certain level of excitement associated with giving or receiving a special gift. Similarly, there can be great excitement with seeing that newborn calf that results from many hours of work and planning. Unfortunately, as with shopping, there can be serious fallout from a poorly planned calving season.
Depending upon, when your calving season begins, you may or may not have enough time to implement practices that can minimize problems during calving season and the subsequent breeding season. At this point in time, you are locked in to a particular calving season for 2013 and more than likely know what harvested forages you have available. If your calving season begins in January, you have fewer options available now to make changes compared to a producer that starts calving 2-4 months from now.
In nearly every cow-calf operation, harvested forages are the primary diet component winter rations. Yet, we typically know less about the forages we feed than any other feed and health products consumed by the cow herd. We often want to look at the feed or drug labels of products that are purchased but don't seem overly concerned about the quality of the forages that are consumed by the herd. It is easy to over-value hay that looks good in the bale while we may have forgotten how mature it was when it was packaged.
If you have not done so, send forage samples in for nutritional analysis immediately in order to assist with ration balancing for late gestation or early lactation females. Poor quality hay cannot be improved by feeding more poor quality hay. If your hay is of poor quality, you may have to feed some corn or grain by-products to meet the needs of a mature or growing female under production stress. It is vitally important that we maintain adequate body condition scores during critical production times. Body Condition Scores (BCS) ranging from 5-6 are considered ideal during late gestation or early lactation in this scoring system where 1 is thin and 9 is obese. Large quantities of university research have documented that poor nutrition and declining BCS during late gestation or early lactation can have devastating negative impacts on conception rates in the following breeding season. Remember the old adage, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later!"