Thin cows require a higher energy ration to improve body condition before winter sets in. A cow that has a condition score of two, (200 pounds lighter than optimal) doesn’t have the fat cover that is needed for insulation and they can’t tolerate the colder temperatures. More feed will be needed for a thin animal to keep warm compared to a cow in good shape. One researcher estimated an additional 1400 pounds of hay is needed over the winter just to keep the animal warm. If hay is valued at six cents a pound, that is an additional cost of $84.
If there are thin cows in the herd, wean the calves now. The nutritional requirements of a dry cow is 25% lower than that of a lactating beef cow. If placed on a good quality pasture, weight gain is possible. Supplementing 3 to 4 pounds of grain every second day will also help.
Split the thin animals from the herd and into a different pen or paddock and feed them grain along with a good quality hay. Older cows, timid cows, and the first calf heifers often can’t compete in a large group and are forced to eat the lower quality feeds that remain after the main herd has moved away from the feeding area. If an extra pen is not available, move the thin animals in with the growing replacement heifers.
Thin cows are prone to have more calving problems compared to cows in good condition. The number of difficult calvings may increase because the cow does not have the muscle strength needed to deliver the calf. With limited feed intake right after calving energy intake is usually limited. To make up the energy deficiency, fat is mobilized off the back of the cow. Thin cows can’t mobilize fat, resulting in decreased milk production that in turn negatively impacts calf growth rate.
It is difficult to have a cow gain weight after calving because of the high nutritional requirement. Thin cows take longer to cycle and may not be ready for the bull when they are turned out. First service conception rates with thin cows is lower than that of cows that are in good condition.
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