What are the nutritional requirements of beef cattle?
Proper nutrition is essential for maximum growth and performance in any animal. It is also a key to herd health. Beef cattle require balanced diets containing the appropriate levels of energy (supplied by fats and carbohydrates), protein, vitamins, minerals, and water. With proper levels of these nutrients, the animals can carry out the bodily processes necessary for maintenance and production.
Maintenance involves replacing cells, repairing damaged cells, and fighting off diseases. Animals fed balanced diets receive essential vitamins and minerals, which aid the body in fighting diseases. Without proper nutrition, the ability to ward off disease is reduced, which usually results in illness.
The nutritional needs of animals change as they pass-through different stages of production. For example, their nutritional requirements increase as they experience growth and development. Gestation (pregnancy) and lactation (milk production) also increase their nutrient needs.
A second part of herd management is correctly managing breeding and reproduction. Whether producers choose spring calving (February to May) or fall calving (September to November), the length of the calving season needs to be limited to 60 days to ensure the uniformity of calves at weaning. Producers must plan the turn out and lockup dates for bulls to control the length of calving. Bulls should be turned out with the cows between 60 and 90days after the first calf is born and locked up 90 days later to maintain the current calving cycle. Bulls should not be turned out before 60 days have passed because many cows are not ready to conceive again until 60 to 90 days after calving.
Producers should evaluate all bulls for breeding soundness before they are turned out with the cows. Qualified veterinarians examine semen under a microscope to check for abnormalities, sperm count, and motility (ability to move). Producers should replace bulls that fail the breeding soundness exams to help ensure that the cows will be bred. Generally, young bulls can breed between15 and 20 cows annually, while mature bulls can handle up to 50 cows.
Heat detection is critical for producers who use artificial insemination (AI) in their herds. One of the most obvious signs of heat is that females will allow others to ride or mount them. When a female is in heat, the producer can artificially inseminate the female and return her to the herd.
Some producers will try to manipulate the estrus cycle by giving hormone injections to cows in a process called estrous synchronization; many cows can then be made to cycle simultaneously. This practice allows the producer to utilize the labor required for artificial insemination better.
Pregnancy checking is another important management practice that can increase reproductive efficiency. In this process, the female’s reproductive tract is palpated to check for evidence of fetal growth and development. Producers should check all breeding females exposed to the bull 60 days after the bull is locked up; before 60 days have passed, pregnancy is more difficult to detect. All females that are checked and are open (not bred) should be sold. The other females will have an average gestation length of 281 days.