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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
hfr pair on grass

Makin momma cows: Part 3 of 4

Posted by Travis Meteer - Nutrition

Nutrition plays a vital role in the success of a heifer development program. This crop of heifers may be some of the most nutritionally challenged heifers in recent memory. Drought has forced many producers to feed lower quality feedstuffs. On the other end of the spectrum, some producers are sitting on more corn silage than they have ever had, due to harvesting a failed corn crop as corn silage. It is important for producers in either situation to have a nutritional program for these heifers and avoid under-developing or over-developing heifers.

Most literature shows heifers should be developed to 65% of mature body weight. For example, consider the following scenario. Heifer Ranch maintains mature cows that weigh 1400 lbs, they calve on March 1st and their cows wean 45% of their body weight. This results in heifer calves that weight 630 lbs. at weaning. If they are bred to calve on March 1st at two years of age, then she needs to be fed at a programmed gain of 1.04 ADG to weigh 910 at breeding. These numbers are surprising to some, but truth is heifers developed on a steady gain do not need high priced feeds. Develop a least-cost ration, account for "profit robbers," and target 65% of mature weight.

It is important for this to be a steady gain. Many times I see heifers that are pushed early with creep feeds and subsequent grain until steer calves are sold. Then the heifers are forgotten. However, cattle that are losing weight have poor conception rates. It is important not to burn out heifers and then crash them ... all the while expecting them to breed because they are heavy enough.

Another fear of mine this year is over-developing heifers on corn silage. Many producers have corn silage instead of hay this year. Corn silage, even drought stressed corn silage has ample energy and will result in decent gains. Feeding corn silage ad libitum to heifers could result in over-development. Limit-feeding corn silage can be a great heifer development strategy, just make sure the ration is balanced.

Some producers that are limit feeding a heifer development ration should certainly consider adding Rumensin to the diet. This has shown to help heifers reach sexual maturity earlier and certainly can help them maintain adequate gains on a limited-fed ration.

My opinion is having heifers on a steady plane of gain, targeted for 65% of mature weight is the best nutritional management plan you can have. Make sure your mineral program is solid. Heifers gaining weight during and after breeding is a great way to help boost breeding success in heifers.

A balanced ration that results in steady, moderate gains before, during, and after breeding along with avoiding over-developing or under-developing will make you happy at preg-check time.

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