Pre-breeding nutrition considerations for cows that have struggled this winter

While spring may finally be here, harsh weather conditions over the winter, and cold and wet spring storms have taken a toll on late gestation and early lactation cows. Some have depleted body stores to make up for the cold weather, so making sure those cows bounce back prior to breeding is crucial to maintaining pregnancy rates.

There are many considerations and management strategies we can utilize to accomplish this.

  • Monitor body condition through calving into the pre-breeding phase. Cows that are of low body condition or decrease in condition below moderate after calving will require nutritional intervention prior to breeding in order for them to cycle and become pregnant.
  • Cold, wet and muddy conditions will increase requirements of all cows. Make sure to supplement accordingly to ensure cows do not lose condition during this time.
  • Separate low body condition cows and young/old cows from mature and high body condition cows so cows that require additional supplementation receive it.
  • Get nutrient analyses done on all forage sources to determine the quality of rations offered to cows. Especially when forage resources are tight, this can help make sure we are not over-supplementing fat cows or under-supplementing thin cows.

While the cost to improve body condition scores of cows that have lost weight over the winter and support the requirements of young cows may be frustrating after the past winter we’ve had, the cost is greatly offset by their ability to produce another calf that is born early in the season and has more time to grow prior to weaning. Getting cows to breed early in the season is crucial to maintaining a tight calving window for next year, weaning heavier calves this year, and improving overall profitability that comes with higher pregnancy rates.

Article written by Katy Lippolis, Iowa State Extension Cow-calf Specialist and used with author’s permission

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