Suckler cow condition

johnspeehs

Member
Location
Co Antrim
What 's everyone's opinion on changing spring calving suckler cows condition? Doe's it cause any problems letting them loss condition for a few months after housing for cows calving in February? Reason I'm asking is we had a lot of calving problems this spring and I put it down to the cows being too fit but this Autumn my cows have never been in better condition and I don't want a repeat next spring. How does's everyone else go about getting them slimmer?
 

Samcowman

Member
Mixed Farmer
Location
Wiltshire
Have you condition scored them? Have done ours for the first time this year as the vet has PDd then and there’s definitely a few that have done well this summer. Will keep their scores so will check up at calving for any with problems. Don’t usually have many calving problems though. Took out a whole family, 4 cows, a couple of years ago because 3 of them needed assistance in the same year.
Will be splitting off some of the really strong girls to go really restricted when they get housed.
 

JSmith

Member
Livestock Farmer
Can you leave them out a bit longer on a sacrifice field with straw in a ring feeder or three? We winter ours out all year but we’re light land and grow kale to strip graze with a grass lye back field, they start off with straw an then hay or silage after Xmas but depends on how the weather is an how the cows are looking!! Just a magnesium lick is all they get extra, calve’em lean an then get them on the grass once we have any, they soon get them selves right, they are beef shorthorn though, so can handle the weather and the forage!!
 

ERL

Member
Livestock Farmer
I have a simple spreadsheet that Trevor Cook (NZ Vet) gave me to guide us on when to allocated feed to suckler cows. Can't attach it here as its in Excel but if you dm your email I can send it you.

His message at the time:

One of the things that I noticed my whole trip was that breeding cows were over fed. There was no concept of when they could be restricted. There is good science that confirms that a cow has a more productive life if it loses 10% of its body weight between weaning and four weeks before calving starts. The feed being fed to the cows in both Wales and France was expensive feed and it did not need to be that quality or that much.
 

scholland

Member
Location
ze3
@scholland is the man to speak to. He knows how to economically winter cattle off their backs.

That link sets out the basics of suckler bcs.
Here we want then to be bidding on obese at weaning, herd average over bcs 4. Then gradually loose conditioning between weaning and 1 month pre calving. Important to not loose condition the month pre calving.
You can do that either by restricting feed intake or, as we do, by reducing feed quality ie they rates low of poor quality feed for 3.5 month.

The drop of 1 bcs during this time is a saving of 400kg dm of feed. Huge amount of energy on a fat cows back.

I'd rather calve fat cows that are well exercised than thin or being thinned down cows.
 

That link sets out the basics of suckler bcs.
Here we want then to be bidding on obese at weaning, herd average over bcs 4. Then gradually loose conditioning between weaning and 1 month pre calving. Important to not loose condition the month pre calving.
You can do that either by restricting feed intake or, as we do, by reducing feed quality ie they rates low of poor quality feed for 3.5 month.

The drop of 1 bcs during this time is a saving of 400kg dm of feed. Huge amount of energy on a fat cows back.

I'd rather calve fat cows that are well exercised than thin or being thinned down cows.
Struggling with this a little at the moment. Three beef X dairy cows with February born calves CS 2 but looking well on it, calves are thumpers. Four Red Polls that came here lean late June about the same, middling March calves. Traditional Herefords with March calves all CS three or four. Might wean the others before the Herefords.
 

scholland

Member
Location
ze3
Struggling with this a little at the moment. Three beef X dairy cows with February born calves CS 2 but looking well on it, calves are thumpers. Four Red Polls that came here lean late June about the same, middling March calves. Traditional Herefords with March calves all CS three or four. Might wean the others before the Herefords.
We're weaning here next week, bit of good quality grub saved up for the calves, March calving here
 

Samcowman

Member
Mixed Farmer
Location
Wiltshire
We're weaning here next week, bit of good quality grub saved up for the calves, March calving here
How come you don’t leave the Calves on the cows for longer. Always wean at housing October/November due to not being able to house together but would ideally leave on the cow for longer to help take some condition off of the cows. Or do you do it to make sure the calves get good grub rather than the cows hogging it. Kind of answered my own question there.
 

sodbuster

Member
Feed a basic maintenance ration from housing all the way through. They will naturally lose a bit of condition closer to calving but dont make them do it on purpose. Generally keep my cows at condition score 3-4+ year round
 

Anymulewilldo

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Cheshire
Think of the natural world. Ruminants will build up condition over summer/autumn, lose some over the winter and give birth a little lean in condition in the spring.
👆 this, 100% this. We never give hard feed too cows pre calving. Very rare they get it post calving too, unless twins or underage heifer. If they are too fit we feed more straw, less haylage/silage. Important thing is too make sure the mineral balance is right.
 

Anymulewilldo

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Cheshire
Funny how we’re all different. Most of my cows are first cross out of the dairy. So they don’t carry flesh as easily as extra cross beefers. But I much prefer too calve at 2+/3 BCS. Whenever I have a “fat” cow calve they are the ones that need help, don’t drop enough milk, have a dopey crappy calf. 🤷🏻‍♂️
Nowadays we’re pretty much AYR calving which doesn’t help batch condition but at the time it was a case of loss mitigation!!
 

unlacedgecko

Member
Livestock Farmer
Funny how we’re all different. Most of my cows are first cross out of the dairy. So they don’t carry flesh as easily as extra cross beefers. But I much prefer too calve at 2+/3 BCS. Whenever I have a “fat” cow calve they are the ones that need help, don’t drop enough milk, have a dopey crappy calf. 🤷🏻‍♂️
Nowadays we’re pretty much AYR calving which doesn’t help batch condition but at the time it was a case of loss mitigation!!
Why are you AYR calving suck cows? 😱😱
 

puppet

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
sw scotland
Think of the natural world. Ruminants will build up condition over summer/autumn, lose some over the winter and give birth a little lean in condition in the spring.
A suckler cow has to get through the winter and produce a calf and some milk. Nothing else until grass puts fat back on her to get in calf again.
Just silage and minerals here and they will lose condition gradually. Last month should be a stable diet as calf is growing rapidly then. A fat cow will usually have a big calf and a tougher calving with all that pelvic fat. Just make sure all the silage is cleaned up overnight as if any left they will be eating too much and you want plenty silage left over next year if fertiliser is going to be £400a ton.
 

Anymulewilldo

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Cheshire
Why are you AYR calving suck cows? 😱😱
We had a bull misfire after the first month out 3 years ago. I culled all the old cows that were empty and threw a new bull straight in with the young cows so they weren’t spring calvers anymore. Then set too buying fresh outfits too get the numbers back up. This spread the pattern out as some were already in calf on arrival.
I’ve pretty much just got used too it now and run several different bunches. If anything it’s sharpened me up on the cows as they need too be in calf quick before the bull moves on. Also gives a handy income stream from cattle ready too sell throughout the year instead of all being ready too go in April.
 

scholland

Member
Location
ze3
How come you don’t leave the Calves on the cows for longer. Always wean at housing October/November due to not being able to house together but would ideally leave on the cow for longer to help take some condition off of the cows. Or do you do it to make sure the calves get good grub rather than the cows hogging it. Kind of answered my own question there.
We don't have much calf growing grass left, but enough for ask the calves for 3 or 4 weeks. After that heifers will come in and steers will go onto beet.
We have enough deferred grass saved up to feed the dry cows until February.

Calves will be close to 200 days old at weaning
 

Whitepeak

Member
Livestock Farmer
Watched the ahdb webinar last week on suckler cow profitability. And I'm sure one of the speakers said that cow condition didn't make much difference. He'd visited herds in Scandinavia that were calving what he discribed as obese cows with no problems.
From own experience we get on better by feeding good silage so the cows maintain condition through winter than when we fed poor silage and lost condition over winter.
 
Watched the ahdb webinar last week on suckler cow profitability. And I'm sure one of the speakers said that cow condition didn't make much difference. He'd visited herds in Scandinavia that were calving what he discribed as obese cows with no problems.

Could quite believe that. We (UK) likely have heavier calves at birth than most countries which limits any wriggle room we might have had on high BCS cows at calving. Probably also a reason for uptake in Pelvic scoring in recent years??
Think I'd rather have 10Kg lighter calves at birth and cows at BCS 3- 4.
 

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