As the region begins to make its way into the treacherous winter months, cattle producers should begin thinking about what the change in weather could mean for their cattle’s nutritional needs and begin preparing for those changes.
“My first piece of advice for producers while we begin to head into these winter months would be for producers to get whatever their winter feed supply is and take samples of that. Take those samples to a forage testing laboratory to see what is in the forage itself and get a nutrient analysis back on what they have available. From there, based on those results, I would encourage producers to work with their local Extension office to help build some rations and to make sure that they have what they need to meet their livestock's nutrient demands,” Rachel Endecott said.
Endecott owns and operates Grey Horse Consulting, a livestock nutrition consulting business that focuses on beef cattle management. She believes it is important to change feeding regimens going into the winter months to ensure healthy livestock, but especially so for cattle that are pregnant.
“There are two things that are going to interact: The weather and the temperature it is outside can really impact nutritional requirements. Then, particularly for pregnant cows or spring calving cows, as we proceed through the winter, their nutrient needs are going to go up as they leave the middle trimester to the third trimester. The calf and the placental fluid is growing at a very rapid pace, so their nutritional needs go up,” Endecott said.
Besides energy and protein, minerals and vitamins also play a vital role in a producers overall feeding plan.
“We know that vitamins and minerals are important, especially for colostrum, that milk that calves are going to get right after birth. So, we are going to want to make sure that those animals are on a solid and mineral nutrition plan to make sure that that colostrum is the highest quality possible, because that is going to set that calf up to have the best immune system possible,” Endecott said.
While colder temperatures normally mean a higher ration of feed per cow, there is one way to help cut down on the rising protein portion: providing shelter.
“It's important to think about cold stress. We have the wind chill chart for a reason. So what the real feel temperature not only impacts us, but also impacts the energy requirements for cattle that are out in that cold. So having a good understanding and a way for those cows to get out of the wind, small things like that can really make an impact on how much feed producers are going to go through in a day because they are trying to eat enough to maintain body temperature. So in those cold spells, it's really important that we do anything we can to provide a little micro-environment for those cows to get out of the wind and get as warm as they can. With the weather conditions we have, that is going to make a difference in the overall feed being fed,” Endecott said.