It is with great optimism we are hopefully experiencing the final few weeks of winter and can look forward to warmer days right around the corner. With this in mind, I am going to use this article to do a little "spring cleaning" to cover several issues cattle producers need to consider in the coming weeks. I hope this will answer some commonly asked questions this time of the year.
The first consideration as the grass starts to green up is grass tetany. Grass tetany is associated with a build-up of potassium nitrate reducing the bioavailability of magnesium in a cow’s diet. This most commonly occurs in cool-season grasses experiencing rapid growth during early spring and late fall of each year. Prevention is the key to eliminating this nutritional disorder in cattle. Cattle consuming a mineral providing 12-15 grams of magnesium per head per day should not experience any problems with grass tetany. I recommend providing a mineral containing at least 10 percent magnesium for 30 days prior to the time cattle will be most susceptible to grass tetany. Cattle will need to be offered this mineral in a free-choice form until forages mature and are not experiencing the rapid growth occurring early in the growing season. Your local Co-op offers a wide range of minerals and blocks to supply magnesium in the daily diet of your animals and in a highly available form.
Another consideration is making a decision on a complete mineral for the summer months. Most producers supplement cattle during the winter months with either feed or blocks providing minerals, vitamins, protein and energy. During the summer months while cows are not receiving supplementation, their requirements for minerals and vitamins will continue. Consumption of minerals and vitamins will probably increase during the summer months to replace those lost due to sweating from the extreme heat in Alabama. We recommend a general all-purpose cattle mineral to meet the cow’s needs. Also, additional management is usually required during the summer to make sure the product is being provided on a daily basis. It is easy for mineral and vitamins supplementation to be ignored during the summer when most producers do not check their cattle as closely as they do during the winter. Your local Co-op has a variety of free-choice minerals and feeders that will fit the bill.
We are also happy to introduce a STIMU-LYX® Mineral Tub formulated to meet the mineral and vitamin requirements of Alabama cattle during the summer. Like all other STIMU-LYX® supplements, this product will be readily-accepted and cattle will consistently go to this supplement on a daily basis. This is very important when trying to get your cattle bred for next year’s calf crop.
Another mineral product we offer for your consideration is one specifically formulated to reduce the affects of fescue toxicity on cattle. The affects of fescue toxicity is due to an entophyte causing cattle to be unthrifty, maintain winter hair, poor reproduction performance, poor growth and, in extreme cases, loss of tails and hoofs due to restriction of blood flow to these extremities. Research has shown supplemental trace minerals like copper and selenium along with high levels of vitamins A, D and E have been effective in reducing the effects of fescue toxicity. We offer products specifically designed for cattle on infected fescue. Your local Co-op team is ready to assist in selecting the right product for this situation.
Another spring consideration is deciding what to do for external parasite control. External parasites cost cattle producers billions of dollars each year in lost weight and in the spread of diseases like pink eye. A producer has a variety of options when selecting an external parasite control program. A producer can select from sprays, rubs, tags, pour-ons or feed-through products added to minerals or blocks. While all these products are effective in external parasite control, I suggest you consider several different options when putting together an external parasite control program. Most producers implement a program including sprays along with feed-through products like Rabon® or an IGR added to complete minerals or blocks. These products can be in a loose mineral form or could include a fly control block in Sweetlix® or STIMY-LYX® line of products. As always, your local Co-op has a variety of these products on hand this spring and they will be glad to assist you in putting together the most effective and cost-efficient program you can put together.
I also suggest you implement an internal parasite control program this spring. A lot of producers skipped this practice last fall as a way to help offset the increased cost of feed, fertilizer and minerals. If that is the case in your operation, I recommend you do not skip this important practice this spring. Internal parasites reduce the cost ability to utilize forages in the most efficient manner possible. While grass is young and at its highest nutritional value, cows treated for internal parasites will gain weigh faster, produce more milk and breed back quicker than those not treated. While most other inputs have been increasing in cost, internal parasite control products have either maintained or, in some cases, experienced a reduction in cost. A cow can be treated for internal parasites for less than $3 per head and the return on your investment will be a lot greater than any return we are currently seeing in the stock market. You should consider a branded-product over the less costly generic products flooding the market over the past few years. A branded-product was manufactured in a way to assure the producer a high-quality product performing in the way the manufacturer states on the label. I regularly talk to producers who have switched from generics back to branded-products because of a more consistent performance. Your local Co-op has special spring pricing on branded parasite control products allowing treatment of cattle at the lowest cost ever.
A final consideration for producers this spring is on whether or not to creep feed calves. Creep feeding calves is very helpful in increasing the growth of your calves, but it also reduces the pressure on your brood cows and summer grass. This combination will lead to heavier weaning weights, cows in better body condition, better reproductive performance and more grass. Feed cost has stabilized from last fall and agriculture economists seem to believe cattle prices will rebound later this year. Lower-cost feed and higher-priced calves are the perfect combination when deciding to creep feed your calves. We offer a selection of high-quality creep feeds along with a variety of creep feeders to allow you to creep feed your calves in a safe and efficient manner. Consider creep feeding as a way to gain additional dollars this calving season.
While I am sure there are other considerations for your cattle operation this spring, I believe those covered in this article are good starting points. As always your local Co-op is always ready to offer advice, quality products and excellent customer service to assist you in any manner possible.