Because condition at calving and breeding are so important, it may at first seem silly to begin worrying about cow body condition in the middle 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 on July 1, 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 on July 1, with every likelihood that they will be thin going into the next winter, thought needs to be given to 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 protein supplements during late summer can efficiently increase weight and condition gain of spring calving cows (Table 1). 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/head/day would probably have been more desirable and provided greater weight increases. The important point is that during late summer, protein supplements can permit efficient increases in weight and condition when forage is available. If one waits until winter to try to increase cow weight, protein alone will likely not be sufficient and larger amounts of energy supplements or hay will be required. If weather conditions are very cold, it may not be economically feasible to increase condition during the winter.