April brings spring fever, winter feeding fatigue and anxiousness to go to grass.
As with many management practices, patience pays dividends. Turning out too quickly on spring pastures will only delay the time when pasture can meet a cow’s dry matter needs.
Rotational grazing can also improve pasture productivity by insuring a rest period for forage regrowth.
As fertilization and plans are made for future forage harvest it is an excellent time to total winter feed consumption and reflect on management changes for 2013 which could reduce days of winter feeding and supplement needs.
Spring calving herds — January-March
· Calving season winding down. Continue to observe late calving cows frequently;
· Tag, tattoo, record birth weight, calving ease score, teat/udder score and mothering ability of dam. Keep accurate records at birth to comply with age and source verification requirements;
· Monitor young calves for scours. Keep calving area and paddocks with pairs clean and well drained. Move pairs to new pastures or locations and reduce commingling of newborn calves with older calves to help reduce exposure and transfer of scours.
Nutrition and forages:
· Continue to offer a high magnesium mineral to prevent grass tetany. Monitor intake to insure cows are consuming the recommended amount; No other source of salt or minerals should be available;
· Evaluate growth of yearling heifers with the goal of reaching 60-65 percent of mature weight by breeding. Depending on forage quality, supplementation may be needed to meet weight gain target;
· Offer medium quality hay as cows are turned out on pasture and use hay disappearance as a barometer of dry matter needs of the herd;
· New forage growth is very digestible, high in protein and high in moisture content.
· Consult with your veterinarian concerning pre-breeding vaccination schedule for cow herd, yearling heifers, and bulls. Plan early to allow 30-day vaccination window prior to breeding season;
Monitor calf health closely
· Monitor calf health closely, particularly for signs of scours and pneumonia, have treatment supplies on hand;
· Observe newborn calves to ensure colostrum intake first few hours of life. Provide selenium and vitamin A & D injections to newborn calves. Castrate commercial calves at birth.
· Finalize plans and protocols for breeding season. Establish calendar to map timing of synchronization program to be used during breeding season. Have supplies and semen on hand;
· Breed heifers 2-4 weeks ahead of mature cows to allow longer post-partum interval prior to second breeding season;
· Schedule and conduct breeding soundness exams on herd sires, including annual vaccinations;
·Manage newly acquired herd sires properly to prepare them for the breeding season. Yearling bulls often lose 100-plus pounds during their first breeding season. Adjust them to the feed and environment of their new home, and commingle bulls of same age/weight for a period of time prior to turnout. Ample exercise, in combination with a proper nutritional program, is essential to make them physically fit for the breeding season.
· Finalize genetic goals and selection criteria for upcoming breeding season (both AI and natural service sires);
· Collect remaining yearling performance data (weight, height, scrotal, ultrasound) in seedstock herds.
Fall calving herds — September-November
· Schedule and conduct pregnancy diagnosis with veterinarian 45-60 days following breeding season;
· Evaluate potential options for marketing of calf crop, including timing of weaning to meet operational goals. Calculate break-evens on various marketing options and consider risk management strategies;
· Reimplant commercial calves.
Nutrition and forages:
· Begin creep feeding or creep grazing calves if desired;
· Cows are entering latter portion of lactation, above average to good quality hay should meet nutritional requirements;
· Although pasture green-up is beginning, hay should be continued to be offered until consumption declines significantly;
· Reserve high quality hay and a pasture area for calves post-weaning.
· Consult with veterinarian on vaccination protocol for calf crop. Design vaccination and weaning program around marketing goals and objectives.
· Collect weaning weights on calf crop at optimum time (typical age range 160-250 days), along with cow weights, hip heights and body condition scores (cow mature size data taken within 45 days of calf weaning measure).