As I sit and write this article, it is rainy and dreary outside. It is weather we should be used to during the winter in Alabama. Many weathermen have predicted our winter will be wetter and colder than usual. When this weather hits, it can make winter more challenging than normal. Cold and dry or wet and warm are challenges enough in the South, but add cold and wet together and we are just asking for trouble. While there isn’t much we can do about the weather, proper preparation can surely help.
The problem with a wet and cold combination is that livestock and horses lose body heat much more rapidly when they are wet. Hair, skin and fat serve as insulation for our livestock. When hair and skin are wet, heat more rapidly escapes from their body, thus increasing their need for more supplemental feed. Water is a much more efficient conductor for heat to escape than dry, fluffy hair and skin. Even snow coating the hair of livestock prevents excessive heat loss. So, our typical cold rain can be the most damaging when it comes to the health of our livestock and horses.
Since we have so few days of this type weather, it is impractical to build shelter for our cattle to use during stressful times such as calving. Many operations in the South calve during late January and February to take advantage of the spring grass. Other cattle operations calve in the fall. These fall calving operations are trying to breed cows during the most extreme winter weather.
As you read this, the new year has begun and we are smack dab in the middle of this extreme weather. We hope you prepared and have your livestock in proper condition. But, if you are behind, it’s still not too late. It may be a little more expensive, but there are steps you can take to ensure reaching your production goals. First, strategically locate your livestock in an area that provides them the most protection from the elements. Second, make sure they have plenty of good-quality forage or hay. Ruminants especially generate much of their body heat from the fermentation of this type of supplement. Third, decide on a proper supplement to provide some energy (starch) and plenty of highly digestible fiber. Finally, make sure they have the proper mineral supplementation. Minerals will help the livestock use feedstuffs more efficiently.
Your local Quality Co-op store has products to help you reach your production objectives during these stressful times. Cattle supplements such as Brood Cow Supplement, CPC Grower or CPC Developer would be great options for cattle feed supplementation. Proper minerals and high- and low-moisture tubs are also products that can help.
Complete lines of horse, swine, small ruminant and poultry feed are also available to help any producer through times of stressful weather. It is a time of year to pay attention to the small details that can help pay huge dividends later.
On another note, most of the fall bull sales are over and many producers have new bulls on their farm or ranch. Many of these bulls have been fed heavily to measure growth rate and to help them develop properly. Bulls that have been fed heavily tend to lose significant amounts of weight if they are not maintained properly after the purchase.
Young bulls, under 18 months of age, are still growing and haven’t reached maturity. These animals seem to be the most vulnerable when it comes to weight loss. It is important to provide them with proper nutrition until they are mature. I highly recommend that producers keep feeding these animals until they are mature. Feeding CPC Developer at 2.5 percent of the bull’s body weight will keep him growing and properly developing. These young bulls are a significant investment and the best way to get many years of service is to finish the job the breeders started and develop these animals completely.
Many purebred cattle operations will develop bulls until they are 18-26 months of age before they sell them. These bulls are generally mature, but it is important that they are kept in top shape before being turned in with cows. Bulls with proper body condition are more likely to pass a breeding soundness evaluation and, therefore, settle more cows. For these bulls I would recommend feeding CPC Grower or Developer at 1.5-2.0 percent of their body weight to keep them in proper shape.
I hope during the predicted cold, wet winter that you will maintain your livestock’s nutrition. Remember to pay attention to the small things. Hopefully these little tips will help you maximize the production and profits on your farm or ranch. Don’t forget to take care of those special bull purchases so they can develop and work efficiently for years to come.
Finally, I hope all of y’all have a happy, safe and prosperous New Year.