As many of you have already learned, having cattle is expensive. Although I can not make it to where having cattle is not expensive, I can sure give you advice to save money. There are certain stages of a cow’s production cycle where it is very critical to spend the money on nutrition and annual vaccinations, then there are times of the year where her requirements are not nearly as critical.
Time To Spend
The absolute most critical time in a cows production and reproduction cycle is post calving. This can be multiplied by two for two year old heifers that are nursing their first calf as well as still growing for another year. In this phase, they are nursing their calf and they need to be maintaining, or even improving body condition to prepare for breeding. During this time, you need to be feeding your cows the best feed you have. If out on pasture, you need to be supplementing protein, vitamins, and minerals, and even using products such as MultiMin 90 along with your annual worming and vaccinations.
The key to having a productive cow is by giving her every advantage to have a live calf born every year of her life cycle. Once your cows are pregnant, your focus should shift to making sure your cows are not losing too much weight until the time of weaning. This can be accomplished a couple different ways.
Providing supplemental feed to calves via creep feeders
Providing supplemental protein and/or energy to cows
The main focus is to make sure your cow’s nutrition is not compromising the calf’s performance or allowing the cow to lose so much weight that you can not bring her back to an optimal weight by the time the next calf is born.
Time To Save
I know this is the part you were waiting to hear about.
A cow’s nutritional requirements are lowest during the time they do not have a calf at side. This is during the third trimester for all cows, and if you implement an early weaning program, it can include most of her second trimester also. The amount you are able to save on feed will be determined by the condition of your cow at weaning time. A cow in proper condition can do very well in this phase with just a high fiber diet with just enough protein, vitamins, and minerals to meet her basic needs. Even though she does have a calf developing inside of her, overall, this is the time where her nutritional needs are at her lowest. Not only is this a time to save money, it is also best for your cows to not be receiving a high energy diet in her final trimester before calving. The diet of your cow can have an effect on the birth weight of her calf.
At the end of the day, it always makes economic sense to keep your cows in the proper condition. In my opinion this is between a Condition Score of 5.5-7.
Cows being over-fat can have negative results on your cows reproductive performance and maintenance cost, not just the skinny cows.
Here is also a great resource by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln: