What producers should be thinking about in February — beef.
• Historically, cull cow prices are beginning to rise. Finish culling cows in order of priority:
1. Those that fall within the “Four-O Rule” (Open, Old, Onry, Oddball).
2. Those with physical/structure problems (feet and legs, eyes, teeth, etc.).
3. Poor producers.
• Continue feeding or grazing programs started in early winter. Fully utilize grain sorghum and cornstalk fields, severe winter weather may begin to limit crop residue utilization, be prepared to move to other grazing and feeding systems.
• Supplement to achieve ideal body condition scores (BCS) at calving.
• Control lice, external parasites will increase feed costs.
• Provide an adequate water supply. Depending on body size and stage of production, cattle need 5-11 gallons of water per head per day, even in the coldest weather.
• Sort cows into management groups. Body condition score and age can be used as sorting criteria. If you must mix age groups, put thin and young cows together, and feed separately from the mature, properly conditions cows.
• Use information from forage testing to divide forage supplies into quality lots. Higher-quality feedstuffs should be utilized for replacement females, younger cows, and thin cows that may lack condition and that may be more nutritionally stressed.
• Consult your veterinarian regarding pre- and postpartum vaccination schedules.
• Continue mineral supplementation. Vitamin A should be supplemented if cows are not grazing green forage.
• Plan to attend local, state and regional educational and industry meetings.
• Develop replacement heifers properly. Weigh them now to calculate necessary average daily gain (ADG) to achieve target breeding weights. Target the heifers to weigh about 60 to 65 percent of their mature weight by the start of the breeding season. Thin, light weight heifers may need extra feed for 60 to 80 days to “flush” before breeding.
• Bull calves to be fed out and sold in the spring as yearlings should be well onto feed. Ultrasound measurements should be taken around one year of age and provided to the association.
• Provide some protection, such as a windbreak, during severe winter weather to reduce energy requirements. The lower critical temperature (LCT) is the temperature at which a cow requires additional energy to simply maintain her current body weight and condition. The LCT for cattle varies with hair coat and body condition (Dry, heavy winter coat = 18 degrees, wet coat = 59 degrees). Increase the amount of dietary energy provided 1% for each degree (including wind chill) below the LCT.
— Ryan Flaming is a Kansas State Research and Extension Agent for Harvey County. Agriculture is his specialty. The Harvey County Extension Office can be contacted at 284-6930