WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — November is a good time for beef
producers to assess their pastures and facilities and take care of some routine
tasks to prepare their cattle operations for winter, a Purdue Extension beef
Cattle are healthier, have more successful pregnancies and
have better rates of gain when they have access to quality nutrition and
facilities during the cold winter months.
One of the first recommendations from Ron Lemenager is to
assess pastures and hay fields and have forages analyzed as soon as possible.
Once producers know what they have in terms of forage, they can start to plan
their supplemental feeding strategies based on animal protein and energy
Common supplements include corn and grain byproducts, such
as soybean hulls, corn gluten feed and distiller’s grains.
“The market’s somewhat lower now, and it’s a good time to
start checking supplement prices,” the specialist said.
While corn might be an economical energy supplement this
year, Lemenager said producers need to compare prices and evaluate energy
requirements for their herds before deciding.
“Beef producers should ensure there are adequate minerals
and vitamins in the diet by providing a high quality vitamin-mineral mix,” he
said. “Minerals are especially important to immune function and
Fall-calving herds are approaching breeding season, which
means producers should have their bulls examined for reproductive soundness.
Those exams should be conducted as early as possible so
bulls that fail have time to recover, and producers have time to replace them
If producers plan to synchronize estrus cycles in their cows
and heifers, it’s also time to get those programs started.
Prostaglandin plus Melengestrol Acetate, a progestin
product, is usually the cheapest and easiest for heifers, Lemenager said.
The combination use of GnRH, CIDR and prostaglandin works
well on cows. Producers should check their artificial insemination supplies so
they have time to stock up if needed.
“Spring calving isn’t that far away either,” Lemenager said.
“It’s a good idea to check calving pens and supplies of pharmaceuticals and
commercial colostrum replacements.”
For spring calving herds, now is a good time to wean calves.
Producers with fall calving herds might consider early weaning to reduce the
amount of supplement needed for lactating cows.
Producers also should be starting routine health procedures
on cows and calves, Lemenager said.
“Now that we’ve had a killing frost, it’s time to consider
deworming and vaccinating cows and calves,” he said.
Facilities should be on producers’ minds as well. Now is the
time to start double-checking fences and barns, especially if producers will be
moving their herds closer to the headquarters or to a dry lot for the
“Make sure tank heaters and electric waterers are
winterized, running and ready to go,” Lemenager said.
The addition of windbreaks or pasture shelters can help cows
retain body heat during winter. Cows can handle zero or subzero temperatures,
but wind chill caused when hides are wet can be hard for the animals to
“If we can reduce wind chill factors, that dramatically
reduces energy requirements of cows,” Lemenager said.
Each 10-degree temperature drop in wind chill below 30
degrees increases a cow’s energy requirement by 13 percent if the animal has a
dry winter hair coat and a moderate body condition score. If the cow is wet or
thin, the energy requirement increases by 30 percent for each 10-degree