For a beef cattle farm, the challenge is prioritizing tasks while managing the time and resources needed to accomplish goals set for the days, weeks, and months.

Late winter is one of the most important periods of the year, especially for farms with defined spring calving seasons.

Step one for a spring calving farm is getting the mineral changed to a high magnesium mineral product, ideally no less than 30 days before the calving season starts to prevent grass tetany.

Cows need 20 grams of magnesium daily or 4 ounces/day of a 15% magnesium mineral mix. Cool, wet soils can limit magnesium uptake in plants, especially if soil nutrient levels are low in phosphorus but high in potassium and nitrogen.

Cows in early lactation are the most at-risk as milk production requires substantial magnesium, often far beyond what is consumed in early spring forages. Grass tetany is a risk through mid-April on small grain and fescue pastures in Kentucky.

Additional feed may be necessary as cows begin calving, especially if feeding poor quality hay. Up to 4 pounds of grain for mature cows and as much as 8 pounds for first-calf heifers may be needed to ensure nutrition is meeting the maintenance and lactation requirements.

Many calves are tagged and identified to their dam. If you are not in the practice of doing this, make 2020 the year to implement this important management practice. If you are weaning and selling calves with no reference to a dam, you are missing the opportunity to record an important benchmark for the year.

If a cow has gone without calving for two years or more you need to have a record of this so the decision can be made to cull it from the herd. Everyone discusses the expense of replacement heifers but when you estimate the expense of owning a cow that has routinely failed to produce a marketable calf, the cost of replacement becomes more affordable.

Male calves should be castrated and dehorned early because these practices are always less stressful when performed on younger animals. Many choose to forgo the low cost, high return on investment opportunity provided by administering implants.

Research has proven over and over that implants provide a substantial return on investment through their ability to help the animal achieve maximum daily gain. Implanting heifers is recommended as well, but delay this practice until after determining which heifers will be retained for breeding purposes.

The breeding season should end this month for fall calving herds. A cow bred Feb. 29 would calve on Dec. 8. Spring is the time to shop for bulls as they are typically more available than prior to the fall breeding season.

A bull sale conducted in partnership of the Union County Cattlemen’s Association and the Union County Cooperative Extension Service will be held at the Union County Fairgrounds Arnold Arena at 12 p.m. on Saturday, March 14. All bulls encompassing breeds of angus, charolais, red angus, and simangus, will have passed a breeding soundness exam within 45 days of the sale. Call Dr. Caleb Jenkins at 270-952-0767 for more information.

Feeding hay in late winter can be brutal on pastures. An effort should be made to conserve soil and grass resources. Monitor feeding areas closely and move animals often. Cows and calves can develop health problems related to mud induced stress and pathogens.

Clean feed pads and move feeding equipment to limit mud restrictions to feed as often as possible. Today through month’s end is the ideal time to frost seed clover into closely grazed pastures and to apply nitrogen to promote early spring growth.

Now through March will remain an important time period for cow herds. Improving record keeping, close monitoring, and providing adequate feed and shelter will repay dividends this coming winter when it is time to wean and background the calves to sell in the December or February CPH45 sale.

Beef Quality and Care Certification

There will be a Beef Quality and Care Assurance Certification today, 8:30 a.m. at the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Office. There will be another opportunity at 4:30 p.m. March 12 followed by a Beef Cattle Nutrition workshop at 6 p.m. at the Daviess County Extension Office.

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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