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Tips for Spring Cattle Management

Spring is coming and for cattle farmers that means its time to consider their spring breeding schedule. With breeding being in full swing by April, replacement heifers should start the calving process as early as the beginning of March

If feed is available, use the next 30-45 days to improve the body condition of the cows. Mature cows should be in a body condition of “5” going into the breeding season. “Thin” cows (BCS of 3 or 4) will have difficulty cycling and getting bred on time. Neel says a large number of Tennessee cows are in “thin” conditions. These cows should be fed to gain weight between now and the start of the breeding season and continuing into the breeding season.

Feed recently calved females the higher quality hay. Nutritional demands of the females are the greatest following calving than any other time in their production cycle, Neel says. They need to gain weight.

Starting in March expose replacement heifers to a bull for no more than 60 days. Forty-five days would be better, Neel says. As a result, these heifers will calve a month earlier than the mature cow herd and have an extra 30 days to recover from calving before the start of the subsequent breeding season. This will also help to develop a short calving season.

Replacement heifers should be bred to a bull with a low-birth weight EPD.

Do a breeding soundness examination (BSE on the herd bull. This should be done each year before start of the breeding season.

Bulls should also be in a good nutritional condition prior to start of the breeding season - exhibiting a BCS of 6. They will lose weight and condition as the breeding season progresses.

Bulls may need to have their feet trimmed and checked for corns. The bull’s ability to mate with cows is dependent on sound feet and legs.

Cows in early lactation are more susceptible to grass tetany. Provide magnesium oxide with the mineral supplement. The change in weather puts stress on the cows as result of lactation. With the rain the past few weeks, some pastures have started to “green up,” which creates conditions for grass tetany.

Add magnesium oxide to the mineral supplement. Fast growing, lush, forages are apt to be magnesium deficient. Offer the cows a mineral supplement composed of 30 percent salt, 30 percent dicalcium phosphate, 30 percent magnesium oxide and 10 percent dried molasses to improve palatability. Cottonseed meal could replace molasses. Either of these will aid consumption. Continue to provide magnesium oxide supplementation up to the first of April and for additional insurance, until April 15.

Complete surgical castrating and dehorning while calves are young. Neel says both of these practices “add value” to feeder cattle. Feeder cattle with horns are discounted at sale.

Implant all castrated male calves and heifers that will not be retained for breeding stock.

Identify calves with an ear tag, and possibly a tattoo, while they are young and easy to handle.

While cows are “open” and before breeding, an annual vaccination program should be carried out. The biggest problem to overcome in vaccinating cows is the lack of a calving season. A healthy cow herd is a profitable performing one and will also contribute to producing a healthy calf crop.