The persistent, extreme cold weather conditions this winter is contributing to the deaths of beef cows in southwest Missouri.
University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist Eldon Cole says the extreme cold has been hard on beef cattle to the point many have been losing body weight. And feed intake is just not sufficient to meet the daily nutrient needs during the long cold spells.
Cole says one farmer summed the situation up this way, "Cows just looked like they'd run out of gas."
Some southwest Missouri beef cattle producers are seeing an increase in death loss among cows, and lower than normal conception rates. Cole is also hearing of health issues among calves and yearlings.
"We've been getting a lot of questions at the Lawrence County Extension Center," he added. "One factor to be considered with all those concerns is the body condition of the cattle that are involved."
Better hay needed
Cole believes what is contributing to the losses and poor health of beef cattle is a combination of cold weather demanding more nutrients and poor hay quality.
"Hay tests and general observations in 2013 were that hay quality was below normal going into the winter," he says. "If you put those two items together it could spell trouble."
Several hay samples taken recently have total digestible nutrient, or TDN, levels between 45% and 50%. Those might be acceptable for fleshy, body condition score cows in the 6 plus range.
"Lactating cows and first-calf heifers need a much higher quality hay that's in the mid to upper 50 range in TDN," he explains. "Some will also need added protein above what they may be receiving from self-fed supplements."
Stockpiled fescue, normally relied on as forage that is better than hay, has also been affected by the prolonged covering of ice and snow.
As beef cattle producers move into the busiest part of calving season, Cole says there's a need to feed more energy, vitamin A and some extra protein to cows calving now. "With the cattle market strong, it's time to keep the cows and yearlings from running out of gas," he adds.
Livestock specialist can help assess a beef cow's nutrient requirement and help determine the quality of your feed and how it could be economically supplemented.
Source: MU Beef Newsletter