NDSU Extension - Williams County


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January 28, 2016- Nutrition Requirements

Carl Dahlen, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Beef Specialist puts out a newsletter called “The Ranch Hand”. There is an article in there titled “Grow, Baby Grow!” which has some great information about the nutrition requirements for pregnant cows. Dahlen states that the majority of fetal growth occurs during the last trimester of pregnancy, from 75 to more than 90 percent, depending on the source. As mature cows move from second trimester to third trimester, a 20 percent increase in crude protein intake and 16 percent increase in total digestible nutrient intake are needed. The increase in nutrient requirements will increase again when the cow has had her calf and begins producing milk.  For healthy calves and higher cow fertility during the breeding season, winter nutrition can have a major impact. A summary of studies that compared low levels of nutrition (cows losing weight) with high levels of nutrition (cows gaining weight) during the third trimester revealed that cows receiving fewer nutrients did have slightly smaller calves.  The smaller calves were the only potential benefit of the low feeding level. Cows that were few the high level of nutrition actually had less calving difficulty, even with slightly bigger calves. Calves from cows that were few the low levels of nutrition had more health issues, such as scours and scours-related mortality. Dahlen refers to another study that found that cows with inadequate body conditions produces poorer-quality colostrum, which is important as it is packed with antibodies, fatty acids, protein, and vitamins. To make sure you are feeding your cows the proper nutrition levels at the correct times, looks at your anticipated calving dates. When your cows are entering their third trimester, you may have to supplement cattle. Current protein and energy content of native pastures and/or crop residues likely are not suitable for cows that are calving.

Thin cows and heifers need to be on a greater plane of nutrition, compared to older cows in good condition. If possible, sorting thin cows and heifers into their own group for feeding will help you regulate the amount of feed they are receiving. At time, older and mature cows will push away thin cows and heifers from the feed bunks. One thing to keep in mind while feeding is the temperature, when the temperature is colder, cows require more total digestible nutrients (TDN). Cows are limited on how much they can eat in a day, so to ensure cows are eating their needed requirements so you may have to increase the quality of feed. Adequate nutrients during gestation leads to healthier calves.


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