Cows/Cattle/beefmaster

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QUESTION: ques about  beefmaster cow has a 2 months old calf, she had lost lil bit of weight coz of calfing so how much feed should i provide for her and also about alfalfa can i give her some, and any other helpful tips thank you."and as for the heifer calf to put her on a good feeding prog and also what type of feed. thank you so much
GOD Bless

ANSWER: Hello there!

I am so very sorry I didn't get back to you right away!

It's no surprise to me that a cow would come out a looking little rough after calving, and then having to focus on milk production for her calf.  I don't know what you're feeding her right now, but at this stage with her nutritional levels nearly reaching a peak (majority of cows reach their nutritional peak when lactating around three months post-partum or after calving), she will be at a higher plane of nutrition than she would when she's dry and pregnant, not to mention requiring 50% more feed at this stage as well. Lactating cows need more calcium, protein, phosphorus and other essential vitamins and minerals in her diet. So yes, alfalfa is a great feed to feed to her in addition to what she's already getting, however, before I answer any more of your questions, I have some other questions for you:

How much alfalfa to give her? As I mentioned before, I would really like to know what you are feeding her right now. Are you feeding her hay or is she on pasture as well? What kind of hay are you feeding her (grass only, grass-legume mix, type of grass)? How much of it are you giving her per day, approximately? Are you feeding her grain? And, what kind of mineral program is she on?  (May I also ask your location, as this is important in what you have available to feed her as well)

As far as the heifer calf (and I'm assuming this is the heifer's dam is the cow you are asking about above) is concerned, what you want to feed her depends on what you are wanting to do with her.  Is she going to be fattened up for freezer beef, or going to be another breeding female in your herd? Or, is she going to be a show heifer at all?  Is she a little thinner than you like her to be, or does she seem to be growing and gaining well on her mother's milk?  Creep feeding is a controversial subject at best for calves...some producers say it's not worth the cost because their dams do the best work raising their calves and it should be left that way, while others say its good for a) adding weight to the calves and b) training them to feed from a bunk once they're weaned.

Take care,

-Karin

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: she will  be on a pasture plus hay if she needs it, we have coastal hay, and if i want to feed her grain, what should i give her, we sort of dont have a mineral program so what should i do, we are next to corpus Christi, so we are down south. we are going to keep the calf as a breeding. thank you God Bless

Answer
Hello again!

The best answers I can give you are going to be rather lengthy and based on assumptions, so bear with me.  If I assume wrong, hopefully I will have covered the right assumption further on.

Without knowing the types of grasses or legumes in the pasture, the amount of alfalfa hay you need to give her depends on just that.  If you look at the forage content in your pasture, or even get a forage specialist or count extension agent to do it for you if you're not sure what to look for, you can determine the percentage of legume and grass in your pasture to begin to get a ball-park estimate as to how much quality forage your cow is getting from the pasture alone. However, the legume content in your pasture isn't enough to determine forage quality. You may also need to know the overall health of your pasture and the stage grasses are in to determine if your cow is getting the right nutrition from your pasture.

Basically, the taller and more "heady" the grasses are, the lower the quality. Tall grass that is not heading out, though, is of much better quality for grazing. Grass at this stage, regardless of the species, is higher in protein and other nutrients than grasses that have headed out...usually. Soil quality has a lot to do with forage quality too. If you lack certain nutrients in the soil, it will reflect in your cow, as well as the overall quality of the pasture, regardless of what leaf stage grasses are in. Doing a soil test will put a perspective in what needs to be done to improve your pastures. For instance, if the test comes back low in nitrogen, consider incorporating some legumes suitable for your area, such as laspadenza, alfalfa or even clover--whatever grows best in your area.

To maintain the legumes, you will need to be more pro-active in managing it, not just opening up the gate to let your BM cow out and let her graze where she pleases. This may mean trying your hand at rotational or mob grazing--or, also known as Managed Intensive Grazing (MIG). The reason I say this is that some legumes are what I call "decreasers," meaning that the higher and more constant the grazing pressure is on them, the more likely their populations will decrease.  Alfalfa is one such decreaser (not sure about laspadenza, as that does not grow up here in Alberta) that must be managed carefully. Graze too hard and too often, it will begin to disappear.  

Yet again I am assuming that you have a predominant-grass pasture, but I believe I have to be right in assuming such because you mentioned about the body condition your cow is in. However, I am playing around with the consideration that what if, since she's lactating, she is putting most of her effort into getting nutrition into her heifer calf? I had mentioned before that some cows can look like crap and be able to raise a great-looking calf. Yet, I'm also playing with the other thought that a cow should be able to gain weight while suckling a calf, regardless the breed. You did say she lost weight due to calving, so the concern is indeed about getting her weight up while she's lactating. So, with that in mind, the questions that are running through my head is the question of the quality of your pasture, what's growing in it, why feed hay when she should be on just pasture (not to mention why you mentioned feeding alfalfa hay--that was a red flag for me to question the possibility of you having a less-than-ideal pasture for her to graze on), mineral program, actual body condition score, size of the pasture (forgot about that one!), the list goes on. As such, I may be right about you having a pasture consisting of all grass, but I may be wrong too. Either way, neither is impossible.

Now I know you didn't come here asking for pasture management advice, but the concern I have is that if you maintain or improve your pasture, you won't have to be feeding any hay--because, if she's got enough pasture even through MIG, she won't need the hay--and likely your cow won't be in as rough shape as she sounds like she's in. But, I believe I am jumping too far ahead, so I need to focus on solving your cow's nutritional issues here and now.

You had asked about how much alfalfa you should feed her.  Since I'm going to go along with the assumption that she is on a grass pasture as I brain-stormed and discussed above with grass hay, I will say start her off on it nice and slow. Feed her a flake a day for the first few days to get her interested and start getting her rumen accustomed to the new diet. Then start increasing it to two flakes a day--one flake in the morning and again in the late afternoon.  Then increase it to two, then three, then maintain this.  While there is risk of bloat with feeding her alfalfa, the risk is minimal because she has access to grass hay and pasture. Eventually you may just decide to feed her one bale a day (assuming that you have access to the small square bales--hence the "flakes" I mentioned [you may have a different term for such parts of the bale in Texas] in reference to that).

With grain, just like with the alfalfa, a little at a time and eventually increase it.  Usually I like to encourage the other questioners that have contacted me about similar questions to try to reduce the grain consumption and increase forage.  Reason being, unless you want to fatten up an animal for slaughter, all grain does for her--and for her calf--is act as an energy source, because it's primarily made up of starch, of carbohydrates and a little protein. It helps add a bit of weight and maybe add a little fat content in her milk, but other than that... If you want to feed her a little grain, I'd try to limit it as a treat.  Start feeding her a couple of pounds at a time--once a day or ever other day--to get her used to the taste and smell. Slowly over a period of a couple of weeks, up it to around five pounds per day, and just keep it there, limiting feedings to once every two or three days or just so she knows what it is when you need to coax/bribe her to get somewhere. With what type you want to feed, I say whatever is available in your area.  Cracked corn or oats is alright. Just don't be surprised if prices are higher for processed versus unprocessed grains. :)

Your mineral program is determined by what your cow is consuming.  So, since she's on a grass-based ration of hay and pasture, you will need a mineral that has a 2:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus. I can't give you exact numbers because I don't know much about your area, farm or situation. :) You will need a mineral that has a bunch of other essential minerals such as copper, cobalt, iodine, iron, zinc, molybdenum, manganese, selenium (ONLY if you are in a selenium-deficient area), and others. Loose mineral is better than that in block form.  You will have to limit mineral intake for the first week because she will go literally hog-wild over the mineral you have access to her, but after that you can let her have it free-choice. I suggest you talk with your local feed rep or livestock nutritionist for more specific information on what mineral's best to feed for your cattle in your area. Also, most of the time the guys at your local livestock feed store are pretty knowledgeable about mineral nutrition in cattle. :)

With your heifer calf, you need to be careful about what you feed her.  Don't feed her like she's going into slaughter or like she's going to be a show calf, because too much fat can be detrimental to her and her ability to raise her future calf down the road.  Just raise her like you are with her momma, let her have access to mineral, but also allow her access to more nutritional feeds like beet pulp, alfalfa hay, flax, maybe a little grain, and any other high-protein feedstuff you can get for her or even raise yourself.

Other than that, I hope I covered all the bases and answered your questions as best as I could--though I probably gave you a bit more than you asked for, LOL.

Good luck, God bless you as well, and take care. :)

-Karin

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Karin L

Expertise

Forage-Beef Extension Specialist. Knowledge in almost everything to do with beef and dairy cattle. Strong points include forage production, pasture and rangeland management, grazing management, breeding/calving/weaning, cattle genetics, breeds, feeding and nutrition, starting-up, and most physiological questions. I AM NOT A BOVINE VETERINARIAN; so please any questions that concern serious health of your cattle must be taken to your local large animal veterinarian.

Experience

Part of a farm family that bought, raised, and sold stocker/backgrounder steers; assisted with health management, handling, feeding, pasture management, and forage production. Also worked at local mixed-practice veterinary clinic. Experience with cattle included breeding soundness exams on bulls, castration, fixing prolapses, preg-checking, C-sections, calf pulling, vaccinations, etc. Worked at a local farm and ranch supply store selling medications and feed for livestock. Research assistant for the University of Alberta with range health assessments, and helping with various rangeland research projects. Always learning and gaining more experience as time goes on.

Publications
Alberta Farm Express Agri-News and Call of the Land (Alberta Agriculture)

Education/Credentials
BSc in Agriculture (Animal Science Major) @ University of Alberta, June 2015 graduate, but started studies in 2005. An Sci degree allowed me to specialize and gain significant knowledge in beef & dairy cattle production,animal behaviour and reproduction, ruminant nutrition, forage production/management, rangeland and pasture management & ecology, and plant identification.

Past/Present Clients
Various eef and forage producers in Alberta, CAN

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