Well, what is, is. After a long and fairly nice winter, cattle are moving slowly to the cool-season grasses. Many have calves at their side, while others are waiting to calve. However, most of the cows have calved, so the cows and calves are in the process of being worked.
This means that the question of breeding is the next chapter in the management notebook. Are the cows ready? Also, do not forget to ask if the bulls are ready.
Breeding preparation actually does not start now because a cow's condition is the first step to evaluating readiness. Actually, a cow's condition should have been evaluated last fall as the cow came home.
Those cows that needed some extra feed should have been boosted while dry and not nursing a calf last winter. However, there always is the "I should have done this or that," so in reality, now is the time for the last check to make sure the cows and bulls are in good condition for the upcoming breeding season.
Of all the cows and bulls that are going to be mated in breeding pastures in late May and early June, now is an excellent time to ask some questions about the cows, and bulls, readiness for breeding. Generally, in a perfect world, cattle never should be out of shape for breeding.
Weather and feed supplies should be managed to maintain cows and bulls in good condition. However, that certainly is not always the case. This spring has been good in the upper north- central Great Plains. However, in many parts of the country, feed still is scarce and the cattle are thin.
For typical cattle at 1,300 pounds of body weight, dry-matter consumption is 25- to 30-plus pounds a day depending on stage of pregnancy and milk production. If the cow is dry and pregnant, she will be at the lower end of total feed needs.
If she is in lactation and a high-milking cow, she would be at the upper end.
A daily dry-matter intake just shy of 30 pounds of hay per day (primarily a good green grass hay mixed with perhaps 20 percent alfalfa) generally will maintain cows and bulls in good condition. However, what is, is, and the cows that are nursing calves today probably are consuming all they can get in their mouths.
As a producer, if one looks over and sees some "ribby cows" (obviously thin or pretty hard to the touch), some sorting might not be a bad idea. Condition scores lower than a 5 should have a second look. If the score is lower than a 4, rebreeding flags start to pop up.
Every herd has an occasional thin cow, but it should not be the norm. If the hay pile is short or the cool-season grass still dry, any cow that does not consume her required daily dry-matter intake, such as 30 pounds of dry matter in the form of hay or grass, will go backwards and continue to lose weight prior to bull turnout.