Solving Four of Spring's Biggest Challenges

Apr 26, 2019

Solving Four of Spring's Biggest Challenges
Solving Four of Spring’s Biggest Challenges

Purina experts share their secrets to solving common spring cattle concerns. 

What’s your biggest spring challenge?
  • Flies?
  • Cows breeding back?
  • Grass tetany in cattle?
  • Pasture quality and quantity?
If you answered yes to any of these, you’re not alone. Team Purina experts share secrets to solve your top spring concerns:

Concern #1: Fly Control for Cows

Flies can be tricky, especially as spring turns to summer. One way to effectively combat horn flies is to use a feed-through fly control mineral for cattle.

Once a cow consumes a fly control mineral, it functions through the manure the cow excretes. Insect growth regulator (IGR) passes through the cow and into the manure where horn flies lay their eggs. IGR breaks the horn-fly lifecycle in the manure by preventing pupae from developing into biting adult flies.

The key to season-long fly control for cows is starting early. Offer fly control mineral for cattle thirty days before the last frost in the spring. This rule of thumb ensures cows consume IGR before horn flies appear and multiply.

Concern #2: Cows Breeding Back

A big factor in spring breeding success is a cow’s body condition score (BCS) when she calves. To support rebreeding, target mature cows to calve at body condition score 6.

If cows aren’t in body condition score 6 at calving, you’re playing catch-up after the fact. The catch-up approach often means it’s too late to impact the current breeding cycle.

It’s never too late to focus on the next breeding season. The period from weaning to about 90 days before calving is the best time to pay close attention to body condition score and your cattle nutrition program. At three months prior to calving, it’s hard to add condition economically.

Concern #3: Grass Tetany in Cattle

Grass tetany in cattle is most frequent in spring when conditions typically include cloudy skies, cool soil, and lush, quickly-growing, cool-season grasses. Luckily, grass tetany in cattle is preventable, and you can implement strategies to help manage your risk.

Feeding magnesium supplements can help address magnesium deficiencies associated with lush spring grass. Offer high-magnesium mineral two to three weeks before cattle are first exposed to lush grass to achieve consistent intake before the time of highest risk. Continue feeding for 60 days after the first sign of grass growth.

Another strategy to manage risk of grass tetany in cattle includes grazing less susceptible, young cows on the highest risk pastures and holding older, lactating cows off pasture until grasses are four to six inches tall.

Concern #4: Pasture Quality or Quantity

It’s easy to get excited about a little bit of green grass in the spring, but there may not be enough volume to support a cow’s increasing requirements. Cows will run for green grass and burn more energy searching for grass than what they’ll consume. The energy deficit can result in lost body condition.

Consider providing free-choice hay and supplement early until grass is lush and plentiful. Offer hay early and continue feeding it long enough for cows to achieve a body condition score 6 at calving and no less than a body condition score 5.5 at breeding.

Complement hay with self-fed cattle supplements containing intake control properties, which allows cattle to decide if they need additional energy and protein. Cows won’t consume much supplement if forage is meeting their requirements and will consume more supplement if forage is not.

-----Purina Animal Nutrition

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