River Ranch cowboys bring home cattle from a fall meadow, a process which takes three days to complete, to feed for the winter months. Photographer Racquel Russell said the cows fared well from the summer fires, but that the biggest challenge has been that all fall and past summer feed was burnt. Raquel Russell photo

COLUMNS: Winter condition of cows and the mild early winter

This fall has ended up being pretty good for the conditioning of cows going into winter

This fall has ended up being pretty good for the conditioning of cows going into winter. Because of the mild early winter, most ranchers are not feeding, hoping for a few more days or weeks of mild weather.

Smoke and dry weather retarded the regrowth of range, pastures and hayfields: the net effect is that earlier it looked like we might have had to feed early, eating into precious hay resources.

However, the prolonged mild fall and the moisture we have had, has allowed a rebound in the growth of some pastures. You will find the odd cow out on its own having found some green lush grass to meet its feed needs.

The cold snap coming will probably bring them home looking for that winter feed gravy train.

Some agriculture writers are aware that processed feeds (hay, grain, supplements) are the largest expense we have as cattle producers. Our other resource, though, is the fat that the cows are carrying which was stored up during the late summer and fall.

Some say that cows can lose up to 100 pounds of fat while on late pasture which has low feed value. And, once the feeding of hay starts, the poorer hay with less protein and carbohydrate content can be fed for a while.

A cow needs higher protein during the third trimester of her pregnancy for the optimum growth of the calf. If the rancher is calving in mid-March then the good feed must come in mid-December (that is in two weeks).

On the other hand, if calving is in early May or June, then that good feed needs to be fed in February or March.

Whatever the feeding plan, the cow that is losing 100 pounds of fat during the winter will need to end up with a body condition score of three on a one to five scale.

Body condition scoring can be learned by online resources or by talking to experienced people like older ranchers and veterinarians.

Check out the research on this topic by going to the website of the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC)! They have a lot of good research findings and you can sign up for their blog which will be sent to you when they post new or timely research on cattle management.

Before calving, cows need about 8.5 per cent protein according to COWBYTES 532 software.(Alberta Department of Agriculture) Depending on the quality of the hay, supplementation of protein might be necessary to ensure a healthy calf and a cow that will get ready to breed all the while feeding the new calf.

Once she has calved, that cow will need just over 16 per cent protein in the feed. (Good alfalfa hay may be this high). Spring growth in pastures may be that high but early in the spring forbs (flowers) and shrubs (brush) may only contain less than seven per cent protein.

While it is ideal to have thrifty cows which thrive on what nature provides in our pastures, a low body condition score will dictate the need for supplementing.

It is the challenge of the business manager and good animal husband in us to seek the right nutritional balance for the job we are asking the animal to perform.

A young female bred and in calf (still growing herself) will need the best of feed if she is to cycle early enough to be bred again. That young calf takes a lot of nutrition from the mom.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

Just Posted

Jay Camille wins big at BC Indigenous Business Awards

Hard work combined with entrepreneurial spirit makes Skywest Environmental Inc. soar

West Fraser curtails production in Williams Lake for one week, Chasm, 100 Mile Chetwynd for 3 weeks

“It affects the whole province of British Columbia. I hate to see this happening.”

Cripps inducted into BC Rugby Hall of Fame; will visit with high school players Tuesday

Cripps was inducted Saturday during the Hall of Fame ceremony in Vancouver

Deep Creek home destroyed by fire

Cause of the fire is unknown at this time

Road report for Highway 20

Fog patches and slippery sections; Drive BC

VIDEO: Car flies across median, flips over edge of B.C. overpass

Dash cam footage shows vehicle speeding across Brunette Avenue overpass in Coquitlam

Indigenous energy summit includes session on pipeline ownership options

Steven Saddleback of the Indian Resource Council says a session will feature presentations on financing models

Japanese grand champion Kisenosato retires from sumo

The 32-year-old Kisenosato was the first Japanese-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank

UPDATE: Accused B.C. high school killer found fit to stand trial

Gabriel Klein is accused in the 2016 stabbing death of Letisha Reimer at Abbotsford Senior Secondary

Right-wing, neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups an increasing concern: Goodale

Ten people died in April 2018 when Alek Minassian allegedly drove a rental van down the busy stretch in Toronto

Canadian stock exchanges to conduct lottery for ‘POT’ ticker amid high demand

The symbol became available after fertilizer Potash Corp. officially merged with Agrium Inc. in early 2018

Millennial Money: Don’t let Instagram envy get you into debt

A full 48 per cent of U.S. households have credit card debt

Jury debates fate of man accused of killing 12-year-old B.C. girl 40 years ago

Police allege Garry Handlen told a cop how he abducted, sexually assaulted and strangled Monica Jack in May 1978

Most Read