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OPERATIONAL PLANNING IS A YEAR-ROUND TASK FOR PRODUCERS

by: Stephen B. Blezinger
Ph.D, PAS

In the last issue we discussed planning for fall and winter supplementation requirements. But things like planning and forecasting don't stop there and are not only restricted to this time of the year. Planning and decision-making are year-round tasks. As you look across the industry and observe how many cattle operations are managed, they can be described in one word – reactionary. Decisions are made based on what is happening “today.” Little consideration is given to what might take place a week, month, six months or year from today. When management decisions are made in this way, it is exceptionally difficult to make intelligent buying decisions for input costs such as feed, fertilizer, seed, etc.

One of the simplest things a producer can do is take an hour or so and sit down to create a management calendar for the coming year. If you have been in operation for a number of years this is relatively easy, especially IF you have kept good records. Scheduling and calendar creation gives you an opportunity to consider what you do and when, what could be changed, improved and so on. Once this is accomplished, you can then go back and look at when you need to come in and decide how to purchase various inputs you need, with adequate advance notice to do some research and comparative shopping.

The following is an example calendar similar to one I have helped several clients put in place. This specific example is for an operation using a year-round calving season (the most common) and relies primarily on manufactured feeds for supplementation purposes. This example uses two types of range cubes (Cube I – lower protein ~12 to 14 percent, Cube II – higher protein ~20 percent) in order to meet the nutrient needs in the most cost effective manner possible. Other types of supplements can be used if they fit your operation better. Two cow groups were utilized to fine-tune supplementation and management better. While this particular calendar may not be appropriate for your operation, it gives you an idea of a format you might consider when putting your operation on paper. Remember a calendar of this nature is a guide and should be modified as necessary to accommodate weather changes, market shifts, etc. Above all else it needs to be tailored to fit your operation.

Management Calendar

October

• Monitor pastures to determine if hay feeding should be increased or started.

• Feed Group 1 Cattle Cube I - 2 to 3 lbs. - Monitor body condition.

• Move November Calving Cows to Group 1.

• Move July calving cows back to Group 2.

• Provide creep feed for calves

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor calving activity.

• Continue rotating pastures as needed.

     

      November

• Begin feeding hay at rate of 10 to 12 lbs per head minimum or as dictated by pasture availability and quality.

• Feed Group 1 Cattle Cube I - 3 to 4 lbs. - Monitor body condition.

• Move December calving cows to Group 1.

• Move August calving cows back to Group 2.

• Feed Group 2 Cattle Cube I - 2 to 3 lbs. - Monitor body condition.

• Provide creep feed for calves.

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor calving activity.

• Continue rotating pastures as needed.

     

      December

• Begin feeding better quality hay - free choice.

• Move January calving cows into Group 1.

• Switch to Cattle Cube II.

• Feed Group 1 Cattle Cube II at a rate of about 5 lbs per head - increase somewhat if cattle appear to be losing condition too rapidly or if weather is especially cold or wet.

• Move September calving cows back to Group 2.

• Feed Group 2 Cattle Cube II -- approximately 3 lbs. per head per day - increase somewhat if cattle appear to be losing condition too rapidly or if weather is especially cold or wet.

• Provide creep feed for younger calves.

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor for calving activity.

      January

• Begin feeding better quality hay - free choice.

• Move February calving cows into Group 1.

• Feed Group 1 Cattle Cube II at a rate of about 5 lbs per head per day - increase somewhat if cattle appear to be losing condition too rapidly or if weather is especially cold or wet. Evaluate weekly.

• Move October calving cows to Group 2.

• Feed Group 2 Cattle Cube II - approximately 3 lbs per head per day - increase somewhat if cattle appear to be losing condition too rapidly or if weather is especially cold or wet. Evaluate weekly.

• Provide creep feed for younger calves.

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor for calving activity.

     

      February

• Feed better quality hay - free choice.

• Move March calving cows into Group 1.

• Feed Group 1 Cattle Cube II at a rate of about 5 lbs. per head. - Monitor body condition.

• Move November calving cows to Group 2.

• Feed Group 2 Cattle Cube II - 3 to 5 lbs. - Monitor body condition.

• Provide creep feed for younger calves.

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor calving activity.

      March

• Feed better quality hay - if pasture is beginning to become available, hay feeding can be reduced to encourage cattle to graze.

• Move April calving cows into Group 1.

• Feed Group 1 Cattle Cube II at a rate of about 5 lbs per head.

• Move December calving cows to Group 2.

• Feed Cattle Cube II - 3 lbs.

• Provide creep feed for younger calves.

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor calving activity.

• Fertilize pastures.

     

      April

• Schedule spring working - Wean older calves, vaccinate as necessary, palpate, deworm, etc.

• Lower quality hay can be fed at this point. Hay feeding can be reduced substantially since pastures should be doing well.

• Feed hay at an average rate of about 5 to 10 lbs. per day depending on conditions of pastures. If pastures are in good condition hay feeding could be discontinued.

• Switch back to Cattle Cube I (lower protein).

• Move May calving cows into Group 1.

• Feed Group 1 Cattle Cube II at a rate of about 3 to 4 lbs per head - Monitor body condition.

• Move Jan. calving cows back to Group 2.

• Feed Group 2 Cattle Cube II at a rate of about 2 to 3 lbs. per head - Monitor body condition.

• Provide creep feed for calves

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor calving activity.

•Begin rotating pastures as needed.

      May

• Hay feeding probably not necessary.

• Feed Group 1 Cattle Cube I - 2 to 3 lbs. - Monitor body condition.

• Move June calving cows to Group 1.

• Move Feb calving cows back to Group 2.

• Cube feeding of Group 2 can probably be discontinued depending of pasture quality and body condition of cattle.

• Monitor body condition.

• Provide creep feed for calves

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor calving activity.

• Continue rotating pastures as needed.

• Possible 2nd fertilization.

     

      June

• Hay feeding probably not necessary. Monitor pastures closely for quality.

• Move July Calving Cows to Group 1.

• Move March calving cows back to Group 2.

• Provide creep feed for calves.

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor calving activity.

• Continue rotating pastures as needed.

     

      July

• Monitor pasture conditions and grass quality, may need to resume feeding to both groups if body condition appears to be in decline. If so, feed Cattle Cube II at 2 to 3 lbs per head per day.

• Move August calving cows to Group 1.

• Move April calving cows back to Group 2.

• Provide creep feed for calves.

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor calving activity.

• Continue rotating pastures as needed.

     

      August

• Feed about 10 to 15 lbs. of hay per day depending on quality and availability of pastures if necessary.

• Feed Group 1 Cattle Cube II - 3 to 4 lbs. - Monitor Body Condition.

• Move September Calving Cows to Group 1.

• Move May calving cows back to Group 2.

• Cube feeding of Group 2 may need to continue depending on pasture quality and body condition - if necessary, feed 2 to 3 lbs.

• Provide creep feed for calves

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor calving activity.

• Continue rotating pastures as needed.

• Possible 3rd fertilization of pastures.

      September

• Schedule Fall Working - Wean older calves, vaccinate as necessary, palpate, deworm, etc.

• Cull bulls and heifers as necessary that do not fit into program.

• Weaned bulls and heifers should go into their respective groups -- begin feeding Bull/Heifer Developer at about one percent of body weight.

• Hay feeding can probably be reduced or eliminated depending on pasture quality and availability.

• Switch to Cattle Cube I.

• Feed Group 1 Cattle Cube I - 2 to 3 lbs. - Monitor body condition.

• Move October calving cows to Group 1.

• Move June calving cows back to Group 2.

• Cube feeding of Group 2 can be reduced or eliminated depending on pasture quality and body condition of cows.

• Provide creep feed for calves.

• Provide free-choice loose mineral.

• Monitor calving activity.

• Continue rotating pastures as needed.

As mentioned, this calendar is designed only to give you a basic outline to set up something similar for your operation. Since production parameters and logistics are so different for each individual operation this has to be fine tuned to your specifics. Happy Planning!

Dr. Steve Blezinger is a nutritional and management consultant with an office in Sulphur Springs, TX. He can be reached at 667 CR 4711 Sulphur Springs, TX 75482, by phone at (903) 885-7992 or by e-mail at sblez@ peoplescom.net.

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