Cow timeline designed to help farmers boost efficiency

A new poster has been published to help farmers maintain the nutritional requirements of suckler herds throughout the year. 

The cow nutrition timeline poster, created by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) highlights target body conditions throughout the year for spring-calving suckler cows. It follows on from QMS’ popular ewe nutrition timeline poster launched last year.

The resource illustrates the periods of high nutritional demand (calving and peak lactation) and low nutritional demand (mid-pregnancy dry period), as well as highlighting the importance of matching nutritional demand with grassy supply, helping to keep costs low.

The cow timeline was created with the aid of New Zealand vet and livestock consultant Trevor Cook, who has regularly worked in conjunction with QMS in the past.

He noted that there is the potential to maximise the use of grazed grass without having to compromise production, if the nutritional requirements of spring-calving cows are fully understood at different times of the year.

“To be profitable, suckler herds need to wean as many calves as possible per cow mated,” said Emily Grant, QMS knowledge transfer specialist.

“Adequate nutrition before and after calving is key to reproductive performance and this new poster highlights those periods where ensuring optimal nutrition will help maximise performance.”

QMS said that the easiest and most effective way to make sure cows are being fed adequately is by Body Condition Scoring (BCS). This should take place about 85-90 days before calving, and again at calving. There is opportunity at both stages to identify if a cow is below target, and raise their condition to help them achieve optimum reproductive performance.

Cows that are able to maintain their BCS in the months leading up to calving are most likely to produce healthy offspring and be healthy themselves. Those that meet target condition during calving will be able to reproduce quicker, helping keep a tight pattern.

Weaning also offers a condition scoring opportunity. After weaning, cows with a BCS higher than 3-3.5 can be held at that score by putting them onto poorer quality grass. This helps free up pasture for leaner cows and calves.

Extra BCS gained post weaning can be used as an energy reserve during winter when feed costs are high, although any reduction in BCS must be done gradually.

The timeline poster is aimed at pasture-based spring calving herds, and is available free of charge from QMS by calling 0131 472 4040 or emailing info@qmscotland.co.uk

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