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Colquitt County Extension Beef Cattle and Forage Newsletter

Reminders… Start feeding a high magnesium mineral supplement 30 days before cattle are turned in on winter grazing.     MINERAL SUPPLIMENTS FOR BEEF CATTLE

Bull sale season is starting. Evaluate your herd bulls and start looking if you need a new bull BULL BUYING GUIDE

If you are fall calving then remember that a cow’s nutrient needs increase by at least 50% after calving. If possible, separate dry cows, first-calf heifers and cow-calf pairs to feed more efficiently.

Get the bull ready! Trim feet if needed, make sure bulls are in good condition and check with your veterinarian about a breeding soundness exam.

Replacement heifers should be nearing ⅔ of their mature weight.      
Early Season Management of Winter Annual Forages   Moisture determination of forages  

When do I start grazing my winter annual forages??
Here are some good thoughts from UGA Extension forage scientist, Dr. Dennis Handcock. Deciding when to let the cattle in is really where the “art” of grazing comes in. In general, the earlier one starts grazing, the more damage will be done to the pasture’s growth potential. It is a function of the growth curve. In that early stage (lag phase), when growth is slow or just beginning to get going good, grazing can essentially stop growth or slow it to a crawl. It is like a bank account with some principal in it. The more principal one has, the more growth in the account one will get. The growth rate is like compounding interest. Grass grows grass. Take away principal (grass), and the amount of growth will decrease. So, that’s enough professor talk… Practically speaking, one really shouldn’t start grazing until there is at least 1800-2500 lbs of DM/acre, though I would wait a little later on oats as they’ll slow growing in December (particularly if it becomes very cold).
Minimum Height Winter Forage Should be Before Grazing:
•For Rye, that would be about 5-6 inches.
•For Ryegrass, at least 6 inches
.•For Oats, at least 6-8 inches.

The ideal would be to only graze it a little… removing just what it’s average growth rate is and maintaining at least 1500-1800 lbs DM/acre. This is why I am a BIG fan of timed (limit) grazing.
Remember… don’t be too quick to graze. Grazing too early can cost one more in the long run.
TRY TO LIMIT GRAZE!!!  Winter annual forages are most appropriate for growing cattle like stockers or replacement heifers; however, cows can effectively utilize these forages with appropriate grazing management. Limit grazing is the best way to stretch winter annual forages with mature beef cows. Allowing access to the winter pasture for two hours each day will allow cows to fill up on high quality forage and will minimize trampling and wasteful consumption. If labor is unavailable for removing cattle from pasture each day, simply graze the winter annuals every other day. Supply fair quality hay when cattle are not on winter annual pasture. 

Rye grazing in Colquitt County, November 2020  

La Nina now expected to last well into spring
Nov 15, 2020 | Written by Pam Knox
According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, we have a 100 percent chance of a La Nina through winter, and a better than 90 percent chance through early spring. After that, the probability drops but stays above 50 percent through the March-May period before we go into the typical low probability in summer 2021. This is expected to be at least a moderate event and some indicators show that it may be a strong event. This means that all of Florida, Georgia and Alabama can expect to be warmer and drier than normal for the winter. Signals are weaker and more variable for the Carolinas and Virginia but show the same tendency. La Nina is not associated with unusually late frosts (compared to neutral conditions) but the warm winters could bring plants out of dormancy earlier in the year, making them vulnerable to even normal spring frosts. For fruit farmers, the number of chill hours in La Nina winters is quite a bit lower than in neutral or El Nino years, which may be a concern for some. The warmer winter will also mean more overwintering of pests and diseases, increasing pressure next year. In addition, spring soils are likely to be drier than normal, which could lead to an early summer drought if we go through a dry spell with no moisture reserves in the soil. At this point, it is far to early to worry because we are still wet in most places, but it is something to watch for next planting season. READ MORE

How Many Replacement Heifers to Keep?
Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist
 Matching the number of cattle to the grass and feed resources on the ranch is a constant challenge for any cow-calf producer.  In addition, producers strive to maintain cow numbers to match their marketing plans for the long term changes in the cattle cycle.  Therefore, it is a constant struggle to evaluate the number of replacement heifers that must be developed or purchased to bring into the herd each year.  As a starting place in the effort to answer this question, it is important to look at the “average” cow herd to understand how many cows are in each age category.  The Dickinson Research and Extension Center, in North Dakota,  reported on the average number of cows in their research herd by age group over a span of 20 years.  The following graph depicts the “average” percent of cows in this herd by age group.

The graph above indicates that the typical herd will, “on average”, introduce 17% new first calf heifers each year.  Stated another way, if 100 cows are exposed to bulls or AI each year, 17 of them will be having their first baby.  Therefore this gives us a starting point in choosing how many heifers we need to save each year.
Next, we must predict the percentage of heifers that enter a breeding season that will become pregnant.  The prediction is made primarily upon the nutritional growing program that the heifers receive between weaning and breeding.  If heifers are grown slowly and weigh 50% to 55% of their mature weight at the start of breeding, then about half of the heifers will be cycling early in the breeding season.  In this 100 cow herd scenario, about 30 heifers need to be kept and exposed to AI or the bull to assure the target number of pregnant heifers is met.  This allows for natural selection pressure on early puberty and reproductive soundness if the breeding season is short (30 to 45 days).  More pasture space and breeding costs will be needed because of the larger number of heifers kept.
Growing the heifers at a higher rate of gain would be necessary to reach 60% to 65% of the mature weight at breeding.  Utilizing a growing program such as wheat pasture (for spring calving heifers) would allow the heifers to gain 1.5 to 2 lbs per day and about 90% or more of the heifers should be cycling early in the breeding season.
Even in the very best scenarios, a few heifers will be difficult or impossible to breed.  Most extension specialists and researchers write about the need to always expose at least 10% more heifers than you need, even when they are grown rapidly and all weigh at least 65% of the expected mature weight. Therefore in the example of a 100 cow herd, if the heifers are fed to reach over 60% of the mature weight at breeding, we expect to keep back 19 or 20 heifers to go into the growing program and breeding season.  Fewer heifers are started in this growing program, but higher feed costs per heifer will be necessary to reach the higher rate of gain.
Like so many decisions in the beef industry, there is more than one answer to important questions.

Thank you for your time, 

Jeremy M. Kichler
Colquitt County Extension Coordinator

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