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Farmers Warned Hay Quality Impacts on Breeding

07 December 2012

US - Calf vigor and rebreeding potential all hinges on the quality of hay feed that a beef heifer receives through the winter, according to the Beef Extension at Missouri State University.

The amount of fat on the back of the heifer has been highlighted as a marker to gauge the health of the animal according to Justin Sexten, University of Missouri Extension beef nutritionist.

The dry summer experienced in America has raised concerns over feed quality and quantity and whether heifers will be sustained until the arrival of spring grass. Mr Sexten has advised particular care should be afforded to pregnant heifers who require extra nutrition.

"Unfortunately, much forage harvested last season does not meet base requirements," said Justin Sexten. Grain supplement will be needed if hay is not of adequate quality.

"Growing heifers need more and better feed than mature cows. They should be fed separately from the cows."

Academic staff at the university of Missouri recommend that a heifer should calve at 85 per cent of her mature body weight and that most US herds target 1,300-pound mature cows. This means a target weight of 1,200 pounds at calving for heifers-1,100 pounds of body mass plus 100 pounds of condition. According to the University of Missouri the mature weight is based on 5- to 8-year old cow at Body Condition Score (BCS) 5 on a sale of 1 to 9.

Mr Sexten stressed that a heifer in poor condition after calving is unlikely to rebreed the next year which causes cull outs and losses which put hight hay and grain prices into perspective.

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