December 28, 2015

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here and I’m tickled to death that you joined the show. We have Dr. Chris Reinhardt. We’re gonna talk about wintertime nutrition and water management for beef cows for feedlot cattle. It’s an important subject, something I hope you stick around. And more, right after the break.

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(Dan) Hey folks, welcome to DocTalk. I’m here with my friend and colleague Dr. Chris Reinhardt and we are gonna talk to you all today about feeding cows in the winter. And Dr. Reinhardt is our Feedlot Specialist for the state of Kansas. But he is a ruminant nutritionist, spends a lot of time on cow issues as well. And he is over in the Animal Science Department here at Kansas State University. And welcome to the show. (Chris) Great to be here again. (Dan) Well, Dr. Reinhardt is one of our staples, him and Dr. Apley and Dr. Lubbers. But we have a good core nucleus here at K-State that does a lot of work together and if you’re ever in town, come visit us, Manhattan Kansas, the Little Apple. But let’s talk about these cows and one of the things that you know, we always jump right to feed, but providing a good quality water source is important as well. (Chris) We always say water is the number one nutrient. And they need it every day, a high volume and a high quality. (Dan) Yep. And I think it’s important for people to understand that cattle will consume three times their dry matter intake in water intake during the Fall, the Winter, and the Spring. And during the Summer they go to five times their dry matter intake. (Chris) In the Summer we could do three shows on water, it’s so critical. But yes, during the Winter, maybe we take it for granted because it’s cool, but they still need a lot of water to help process all those nutrients. (Dan) Right and I think that it’s one of those things where they’re using pond systems and keeping ice chopped or looking at the different types of water tank systems that are out there. I think it’s really, really important and even the erosion around ponds, if you don’t move, if you’re chopping ice, you can keep the animals coming to one point, but you better make sure that that’s a point that you want them to come and get the water. (Chris) I like how you led out, we tend to focus on nutrition, on the feed side, but the water is absolutely critical. (Dan) Yea, if we don’t have proper water intake we can come into some metabolic problems and some limited intake problems that are gonna cause us issues down the road and specifically with what we’re gonna get into with the nutrient quality. (Chris) I’m afraid you’ve seen some of these things first hand, haven’t you Doc? (Dan) Well yea, we have seen whether it’s different types of water tanks that we don’t prepare the animals or train the animals properly to use those or whether it’s making sure that we have the adequate, natural water supply. During these points in time, if we aren’t keeping up with this, especially in a cattle closed system where the only water they can get, there isn’t snow in the pen, they can’t substitute snow for water. Then we have to make sure that water tanks are not frozen. (Chris) That needs to be our priority, not just first thing in the morning. But first thing in the morning and all day when get a really cold snap. (Dan) Absolutely. Water, water, water and then we can worry about the feed. OK. Well folks we are going to take a break. When we come back from the break, we’re gonna jump into some of the things about wintertime nutrition and we’ll focus on the cow, we’ll focus on the nutrients that are available and we’ll focus on systems and things that you can do to improve the management of your cow herd. Thanks for watching DocTalk. We’ll be back right after these messages.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk, Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Chris Reinhardt and we are at Kansas State University. And Chris is over the Department of Animal Science. I’m over in Vet Med, but together we work and direct the Beef Cattle Institute here at K-State. And Chris let’s get into some of the nuts and bolts of nutrition on these cows. And what is the most important factor. Kind of lead us off on what we’re dealing with, with winter time cow feed. (Chris) What I like to say is one of the, if not the primary beauty of a cow, is she can make use of a ton of things out there in the field that absolutely no other livestock, or humans for that matter, can make any good use out of. As long as we provide the extra nutrition to help her make sure of that. The flip side, the down side of that cow, especially during the winter time is she has to deal with everything Mother Nature will throw at us. And we’ve got to, just like we talked about on the water, we’ve got to be aware of when weather changes and that sage brush and scenery that we’ve been counting on for maybe weeks or months at a time is not gonna be enough. (Dan) So, really what we’re in is the old Einstein that energy is neither created nor destroyed, really is in to play here with these cows. Cause we’re gonna take energy out of the field and put in these cows, but the cow’s gotta put it right back out to cope with their environment. (Chris) When we get these cold snaps and especially if you get cold coupled with precip, we’ve gotta take care of that cow. And that means we’ve gotta get some extra energy out there to it. (Dan) So, let’s run through. What are some of the ways that we, obviously body condition score is one of those that I use when I go out and examine cow herds and look at cow herds for nutrition status and heading into that fall or into that winter. I’m assuming you do as well. (Chris) One of the challenging things about nutrition is, for the most part, we can’t look at a cow or a calf and know exactly what their nutritional status is in general, but when it comes to energy status, body condition score is the closest thing we have to a dip stick, that we can look at a cow and know exactly how far up or down she is on energy. (Dan) So, where do we want these cows to be at, and at what time of the year. (Chris) What I like to say is by the day she calves, we want to be able to see no more than two ribs showing first thing in the morning. Two to three ribs showing first thing in the morning is what we call a condition four or five. And that’s the bare minimum we’d like her to be in if we expect her to cycle back and settle on time during the breeding season. (Dan) So, really it’s keeping them at a five when they calve, so that by the time we come back in 90 days to re-breed that animal is at a physiological state in which it’s normal going through normal estrous. (Chris) Energy is probably the number one limiting nutrient for cycles for fertility. If she reads that she just doesn’t have enough energy to both lactate and take care of that calf and cycle back. First thing to go is gonna be reproduction. (Dan) OK. And the last thing that we want are the open heifers or open cows coming back out of that. Let’s take a break. And when we come back let’s talk about some of the energy supplementation and practices that we can impart. You’re watching DocTalk, thanks for being here. More with Dr. Chris Reinhardt on cow nutrition in the winter, when we return.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk, Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Chris Reinhardt. We’re talking about cow nutrition in the winter. We talked about water, we talked about wanting them to be a body condition score five, which is a scale of one to nine. One being extremely thin, and nine being obese. And we’re not going to body condition score me today, but we are going to talk about some of the things that you can do as far as if you are grazing crop residue or you have them out on dormant pasture, what are some of the kind of rules of thumb that you teach or preach to producers on these cows? (Chris) Well, the easy way to just get energy to cows, we think of grains in terms of their high energy content. The problem is if we’re making use of some of these low quality feed stuff, which are tremendous cow feed, like you said dormant pasture or crop aftermath, grains can be our worst enemy. A little bit is very, very good and helpful, especially during times of cold stress. But any more than that little bit will destroy the ability of that cow to make use of those really good, cheap feed resources. (Dan) So, overfeeding grain can cause the cow, or the microbes the inability to utilize the dormant pasture or hay. (Chris) Adding too much grain can actually take her into a further negative energy balance, cause she can’t make use of that good, dormant that low quality feed stuffs. (Dan) OK. So, talk to me a little bit about what are some of the strategies that you like to look at, or like for us to implore. (Chris) Again, we can make use of a little bit of grain. I’d like to keep it to a pound or two at the most for the cow. Above that… (Dan) Per head. (Chris) Per head. Yea, I’m sorry. Above that especially during times of cold stress, with or without precipitation we’ve gotta look to some alternative feedstuffs. Some, what I call fibrous grain by products. Products of, whether it be the ethanol industry, whatever have you, where the starch has been taken out, they still supply good energy, but not in the starchy form. And in addition to that we’ve gotta rely on good quality hay to replace a portion of the poor quality feed stuff which might be the foundation of our winter nutrition program. But when it gets cold, they need more energy. (Dan) So, good quality hay. Look for something that doesn’t have as much starch like the by products. So, wet, dry, distillers, does it matter? (Chris) It doesn’t matter. Whatever you have available and get use of. (Dan) OK. And then if you’re gonna supplement corn during some these cold snaps or times, you know then make sure no more than a pound or two per head per day. (Chris) A little is good. A lot will kill you. (Dan) Yep. And then the other thing is that we forget about is that dominant cow or that boss cow. And so, you know, spreading it out, supplying bunk space. I know it’s not cheap but it’s something that can help all cows receive the nutrition if you give ’em space and spread out that grain or that supplement. (Chris) You bet. Feeds are really our number one cost item on a cow herd. Let’s make best use. (Dan) OK. Let’s take a break. When we come back, let’s talk a little bit about some of the check marks during the year that we want to be at on these cows. And make sure you work with your local nutritionist and veterinarian on these issues. We’re gonna take a break. After the messages, we’ll be back to talk more about winter cow nutrition with Dr. Chris Reinhardt. You’re watching DocTalk, thanks for joining us.

(Dan) Folks, welcome back to DocTalk. I’m here with my friend Dr. Chris Reinhardt. We’re talking about cow nutrition in the winter. Now, Chris we were talking during the break, I wanna get right to this. Come the first of November is when we pregnancy check our cows and probably while we are over the top preg checking we’re hollering out body condition score. Talk to me a little bit about that as a check mark or as a time of year when we’ve gotta make some decisions. (Chris) Yea Doc, for spring calving cow herds, that preg check late fall is the ideal time to get a really good handle on your entire herd. And here’s why. If the first of November we’re three or four months out from the day the first cow drops her calf, we’ve got 90 to 120 days to make up any lost ground. So, if we’re looking at that cow herd and we see a number of condition score four cows. What’s four? Is where I can see four to five ribs, clearly visible first thing in the morning before she’s got a belly full of feed. And we can make these things complicated, but they’re really not. If I can count four or five ribs, she she’s under conditioned. But I’ve got time to make up that extra condition. And a body condition score is about 90 pounds on a cow. (Chris) Exactly. (Dan) So going from a four to a five, we’ve gotta put 90 pounds on that cow. So, if we’ve got 90 days to calving we’ve got 90 to 120 days, a pound a day that cow needs to gain while gestating. (Chris) And she’s not going to get that on crop aftermath and a little bit of protein. We’re gonna have to add some extra energy for those cows that are under nutrition. (Dan) So, then let’s talk about, OK so there’s a strategy, and if we don’t get it done by December or if we haven’t recognized it until January we’re too late, right. You’ve really gotta have the time back there at November. (Chris) We’re too late to catch up a full body condition. We’re not too late to make up some ground, but it’s gonna be really hard to put two or even three pounds a day on some of these cows. It’s almost impossible. (Dan) Another thing when we’re talking during the break you said a good strategy for producers is if the cows are, if you have some skinny cows in the herd and you have the fat boss cow behavior can make these situations worse, so what are some things we need to do? (Chris) That may be one reason we do have skinny cows and fat cows is just the dominant cow’s getting two or three times what she should be getting for supplements The best strategy is to isolate these thin cows, these underfed cows and give them a better opportunity to compete. The question that always comes up is, are you then going to create welfare cows that have to feed every winter? And the answer is probably yes. But through good record keeping and understanding, will I have to feed this cow every year? Maybe she needs to have her calf, maybe even wean her calf and then move her on down the road. But without records, we have no way of knowing. (Dan) Right, right. So, keeping good records. Management, knowing your cows, body condition score is the key to understanding what kind of supplementation program you’re gonna have to have. Anything else? (Chris) Well, I’ll just reiterate. Body condition score is as close as we have to a dip stick. (Dan) Well folks, thanks for joining us today on DocTalk. And Chris thanks as always for you being here and sharing your knowledge with us. If you want to know more about what Dr. Reinhardt and I do here at K-State you can find us on the web at Remember, always work with your local veterinarian, or your local nutritionist on issues such as this. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson, you’ve been watching Doc Talk. We’re sure glad you joined us. And I’m gonna see you, down the road.

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