The cattle industry has breeding gold standards — 85 days to rebreed, a 60-day calving window and cows in body condition score 6. These figures are especially important when looking to take advantage of improving cattle markets. The 2022 CattleFax Outlook forecasts 550-pound calves to be $225/cwt1. Using these gold standards to achieve more calves and pounds, with favorable prices, means more potential dollars in your pocket.
The management decisions you make for your herd now not only affect this breeding season. Hitting your targets now can have an impact on your profitability for years to come. Here are three tried-and-true nutrition tips to make the most favorable market conditions:
1. Make mineral the foundation of your cattle nutrition program.
Providing cattle mineral and vitamin supplements helps maintain a consistent body condition score (BCS) year-round for greater breeding success.
Minerals repair the reproductive tract
Cows managed for optimal body condition score at calving (6 BCS) rebreed with conception rates of 88% or greater.2 Cattle minerals help repair a cow’s reproductive tract after calving and prepare for breeding. If her tract is not fully repaired, a cow may have challenges with rebreeding or may not breed back at all.
Nutrition impacts multiple generations
At any given time, a productive beef cow is eating for two or three. She is likely bred, carrying a fetus and/or may still be nursing a calf. The nutrients the calf receives in utero and at side can impact its future reproductive abilities. Additionally, cattle nutrition can impact multiple generations of the herd. Dam nutrition can impact future replacement heifer fertility.
Remember: Don’t make the mistake of thinking your forests will provide all the minerals your cattle need to thrive. If you’re not providing cattle mineral year-round, you’re leaving breeding success, and overall profitability, to chance.
2. Routinely record and monitor body condition score.
If you don’t body condition score regularly, it’s time to start.
When to collect body condition scores
Collect scores 60 days before calving, at calving/pre-breeding and at weaning. It’s most important to body condition score 60 days before calving because the condition in which a cow calves impacts how quickly she will return to estrus.
The money is in the score
A good body condition score can decrease the postpartum interval, so cows get bred earlier in the cattle breeding season. Cows bred earlier in the season have calves born early in the calving window, which results in more weight at weaning. Plus, if you estimate that a calf can gain between 2.25-2.5 pounds per day, every heat cycle is worth about 50 pounds.
A body condition score of 6 is ideal, and every point matters. Refer to the chart to see how a single point change in BCS impacts return to estrus and confirmed pregnancies.
3. Act on body condition score and forage conditions.
Turning valuable body condition score data into action is key. Monitor scores regularly so you can adjust cattle nutrition plans in real-time.
Proactively monitor age to prevent a low body condition score
Don’t forget to keep an eye on forage quality. When forage quality is less than ideal, consider supplementing before cows start to lose condition. Once cows lose condition, it can be expensive to gain back. A proactive approach to supplementation is best.
Complement forage with cattle supplements
Cattle supplements with intake modifying technology can provide nutrients to complement your forage and maintain a cow’s body condition score through all seasons. If cows need more nutrients, they’ll consume more cattle supplements; if cows are getting the nutrition they need from forages, they’ll consume less.
Never let your cows have a bad day.
Set cows up for success by providing them with quality cattle mineral and protein/energy supplements. A quality, year-round cattle nutrition program supports improved breeding rates and drives operation profit potential.
1 CattleFax Outlook session, 2022 NCBA Cattle Industry Convention
2 Rasby, RJ, Stalker, A., and Funston, RN Body condition scoring beef cows: A tool for managing the nutrition program for beef herds. Retrieved Nov. 2, 2017 from: http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/ec281.