KC Olson – Matching Forage/Livestock Resources

(KC) Howdy folks, KC Olson with K-State Animal Sciences and Industry and I’m up here in Blaine, Kansas, for the Eastern Kansas Grazing School. And today I visited with the folks about matching beef cattle requirements with nutrient availability in a pasture environment. And this is something that I not only teach but I practice as the Supervisor of the K-State Cow/Calf Unit as a producer here in Kansas. It’s an amazingly simple question to approach and it makes sense biologically and ecologically that we should try to arrange our production cycles in the beef business so that peak nutrient requirements by our animals match peak nutrient availability from our grazeable forages. And not all forage bases are the same. Not all cattle are the same. But with enough thought any operation can come up with a way to match known peaks in nutrient requirements, like peak lactation in a cow for example with a time of the year where forage quality is very high. With that simple principle we can minimize the amount of money that we spend on purchased and harvested feed. And there are several things that cow/calf producers in particular can use to make this happen. Think about the time of the year when and you know your forage quality is at its peak and plan for that interval of time when your cows hit peak lactation. That alone can result in significant cost savings with the added benefit that cow body condition is being managed effectively using the grazeable forage base alone with little to none in the way of purchased or harvested feed. The other thing producers can think about is what time of the year does forage quality decline to the point where it no longer supports body condition maintenance. In the case of the lactating cow here in this part of Kansas in the northern Flint Hills, right about October 1st, the forage base is not capable of supporting that cow in late lactation with body condition core loss. At the K-State Cow/Calf Unit we take those two principles timely calving, timely weaning and we combine them to result in a pretty impressive cost structure for our operation. The Kansas Farm Management Association 2013 reported that the average producer in Kansas spent $485 dollars on all feed and all pasture for each cow exposed for breeding. And during that same year, OK again, using these two principles of timely calving, timely weaning we spent $340 dollars, about 64 percent of the Kansas Farm Management Association average. There are trade offs with a situation like that. Where most herds in the state are weaning a 200 day old calf, we’re weaning a 150 day old calf. We expect that calf to be a little lighter. But we compensate for that lighter calf at weaning time by taking the money that we have saved on cow costs and putting that toward calf development, both terminal steers and replacement heifers.

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