This year we had a frost that came about three weeks early and that means that ranchers’ summer pasture grasses have gone dormant and even if winter grasses have been planted, they’re fairly slow-growing until we get into late winter or early spring. Hence it’s up to ranchers to provide their cattle the nutrition necessary to sustain themselves. Jason Cleere is an Associate Professor and Texas A&M Agrilife Extension beef cattle specialist.
“One of the key measurements that we look at in a cow/calf ranching situation is body condition. And body condition is the amount of fat cover that that cow has throughout her body and so we like to go into the winter time with adequate body condition reserves on those cows, especially a lot of producers in this portion of the state are going to be calving in December, January, and February.”
Cleere says that cows are like wildlife and they have priorities that allow them to take care of themselves.
“So the priorities of the cow are one, she’s going to take care of her calf. When she has a calf, she’s going to produce milk to support that calf. She will take her own body reserves, her own fat reserves if there’s not enough nutrition there and use that to support the calf. Next in line is if she loses too much weight or condition she’s going to take care of her own body. And what will happen is, if she does not have enough energy reserves to sustain herself and the calf, reproduction will be delayed.”
From a rancher’s perspective, fertility is the most important trait in their cows. And during the winter and early spring, cows depend on a rancher to sustain their body condition.
“The winter period of time can be some of the toughest and challenging for the rancher. The days are shorter. Typically it’s cold and wet in the part of the state of Texas and with that, if it’s cold, wet, raining, maybe the ice, the rancher’s job doesn’t stop. The winter time may be slower for some but it actually kicks it up a little bit and it’s one of the tougher times for ranchers just because of the conditions.”