Summer is approaching fast, and for the beef cattle farmer, this means the calving season is about to start. Many beef farmers let their cows calve down in late spring or early summer when green and more nutritious pastures are available for grazing. Sufficient quantities of green, nutritious pastures also minimise the need for supplementary feeding and, thus, the cost of production. However, be careful not to stop supplementary feeding completely, as natural grazing may be deficient in certain key nutrients required by late pregnant or lactating cows.
Supplementing summer grazing macro and micro nutrients
Even though summer grazing is higher in protein and energy than winter veld it often lacks certain macro and micro elements. Some of these elements are required to unlock the nutrients that are bound in chemical structures to make them more accessible to rumen microbes to digest and supply essential nutrients to the animal.
The cow’s nutrient requirements peak during this transition phase from pregnancy to lactation. Her demand for nutrients will increase, while, simultaneously, her capacity to ingest grass will decrease as the rapidly growing foetus takes up more abdominal space. This could, potentially, create a shortfall in nutrients supplied from the grass.
The importance of supplementing at the right time
Supplementing late-gestation or lactating cows should provide important energy and rumen-degradable protein to improve rumen function and increase the production of microbial protein and energy supply to the cow. A sufficient supply of energy and protein will limit body weight or condition losses during the early lactating period and increase the probability of the More than just feed cow to breed again in the new mating season.
Furthermore, supplementation should also provide the cow with other trace minerals and vitamins. The rumen microbes produce B vitamins and, therefore, the rumen environment should be manipulated to achieve optimal conditions for rumen microbial growth. The rumen can often be deficient in cobalt, which is essential for the production of B vitamins. Hence, it is advisable to supplement rumen-available cobalt to ensure adequate supply to microbes. Vitamins A and E help to battle the oxidative stress and infections that the cow is challenged with during the calving period.
Minerals such as zinc and selenium play an important role in keeping the immune system functional and activated. The immune system of the cow should be ‘supercharged’ during this period as she will be challenged with inflammation and possible infections shortly after calving. Supplementing these nutrients and minerals to your transition or lactating cows will not only benefit their health and performance but will also have a positive effect on the passive immunity and health of the young calves through good-quality colostrum and milk supply.
Meadow Feeds lick range
Meadow Feeds has a range of scientifically formulated supplemental licks and blocks that will provide a balanced amount of these nutrients needed to unlock the genetic potential of your beef herd.