Foraging Ahead

Best legumes for your fall-calving cow herds. By Duane Dailey

Fall calving cowherds deserve extra grazing management attention. "Nutritional demands of a lactating cows peak during the 60 days after calving," says Rob Kallenbach, University of Missouri Extension forage specialist. "That means those cows need the best forage on the farm from September until the first of November when lactation begins to taper off."

A survey of paddocks should identify those with the most legumes. Assign those to lactating cows. "We know legumes don't stockpile for winter grazing as well as straight cool-season grass," Kallenbach says. "Use legumes first."

High-quality feed provides energy for milk production and keeps cows in condition for rebreeding.

Paddocks with maximum legumes can be grazed until mid-November. In a grazing management plan, there should be paddocks with 30% to 40% legumes for the fall-calving cows. "That gives cows a chance to gain weight, or at least not lose weight," Kallenbach says.

The goal: Cows in a 5, or better, body condition score at breeding time.

Cows treated well until breeding time, after Thanksgiving, can be tapered off during the winter. Once cows are bred, they can lose 1 or 1.5 BCS. Still, that requires going into winter in good condition, which may be a challenge this year.

- Duane Dailey

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