Poor pasture conditions - Early wean calves

Producer Question from 2013

Q.  I have analyzed my pasture conditions and the amount of remaining grass yield/availability from now until I normally wean calves in Mid-October. I do not have enough forage for all pairs to graze until weaning. Most of the forage is starting to go dormant. How might I consider using the remaining pastures without culling or dry lotting any cows? (July 10, 2013)

A.  Although the drought area seems to be less nationally, the most recent release of pasture conditions would rate about 45 percent of pastures in Nebraska as poor or very poor condition. Consider early weaning at least a part of your herd.

Calves can be successfully weaned using an energy dense, high protein diet at 80-100 days of age. A 300-pound calf will eat about 5 pounds of forage daily on a 100% dry matter basis.

The difference in forage intake between a lactating and non-lactating cow is about 5 pounds of forage per head per day on a 100% dry matter basis.

One-third of your herd is young cows, two and three-year olds. Consider early weaning calves from these cows first. Young cows are the cows that are typically thin at normal weaning and in these conditions may be the most compromised. Getting condition back on these cows now without any or minimal supplementation will allow them to be in optimal condition for their next calving and may be the least expensive way to accomplish this.

Consider also early weaning the calves from mature and old cows as well, should conditions warrant.

Rick Rasby
UNL Beef Extension Specialist
University of Nebraska