When warmer temperatures set in and winter starts to melt away, cattle producers across the country will be keeping one eye on the pasture and one eye on their next biggest investment—their calves.

According to Vaughn Holder, Alltech beef specialist, developing a spring calving program does not have to be complicated, just compatible with the herd. Holder suggests the following management practices for a successful spring calving season:

  • Pay attention to the cleanliness of dry lots, holding areas, calving facilities and feeding areas. Minimize the accumulation of drainage water mixing with dry manure, which creates a haven for bacterial growth.
  • In intensively managed calving environments, minimize the sterile newborn calf’s exposure to pathogens by disinfecting the navel, assuring cow’s teats are clean and free of manure and maintaining a clean and dry environment for calf and mother.
  • Plastic sleeves should be used when assisting with calving. Watch cows after calving for retained placentas and treat all uterine, vaginal and udder infections according to the veterinarian’s recommendations.
  • To keep records current, cows need to be individually identified. Producers should also tag and record all calving information at birth.
  • Maintain a sound nutrition program. Even during times of economic instability, producers should not skimp on providing proper nutrition to their herds.

Proper nutrition can impact the success of any breeding program and several trace elements such as copper, zinc, manganese and selenium are known to impact reproduction directly.  Since most cattle producing regions are usually deficient in one or more of these essential trace elements, it is important to not only supplement the dam with a good mineral but the offspring as well. 

“Losing several cows due to inadequate feed will cost the producer more than keeping their diet balanced with the proper vitamins, minerals and quality forages,” Holder said. “Good nutrition can keep the herd’s resistance high to disease challenges. It’s always a sound investment.”

Holder said, when choosing a mineral it is always important to distinguish between inorganic (sulfates and oxides) and organic sources of minerals. Organic trace minerals (such as proteinates) are absorbed differently, enabling the animal to utilize and store these forms of minerals better. When supplying animals only with inorganic forms of copper, zinc, and manganese, poor adsorption can happen and deficiency symptoms can appear.  Besides poor availability, inorganic minerals are also subjected to mineral antagonists (such as high iron, sulfur and molybdenum) and can be another reason for poor trace mineral status of the beef herd.

With new environmental feeding regulations being put in place each year, Alltech’s Mineral Management program strives to provide a secure source of organic trace minerals that are contaminant-free and safe for the environment. Recent field research shows that producers can feed substantially lower amounts of organic trace minerals than the inorganic alternative and get a similar, if not better, performance in cattle.

“Research has shown that cattle excrete a tremendous amount of trace mineral on a daily basis, and this can have a negative impact on the denitrification process, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions,” Holder said. “Feeding a beef cow exactly what it needs with organic trace minerals, will result in enhanced efficiency and less mineral excretion.”

Alltech’s Mineral Management program will be further discussed during Beef: Its Future at the Alltech REBELation May 17-20 in Lexington, Kentucky, USA.