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New Poster Highlights Nutritional, Performance Targets for Suckler Herds

09 June 2017

QMS - Quality Meat Scotland

SCOTLAND, UK - Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has developed a new resource for cattle farmers to help ensure the nutritional requirements of suckler herds are met throughout the year.

Following on from the hugely popular ewe nutrition timeline poster which QMS launched in 2015, the new cow nutrition timeline poster highlights target body condition scores throughout the year for spring-calving suckler cows.

It also identifies the periods of high nutritional demand (calving and peak lactation) and low nutritional demand (mid-pregnancy dry period) and emphasises the value in matching nutritional demand with grass supply to help keep costs low.

The cow timeline has been drawn up with assistance from leading New Zealand vet and livestock consultant Trevor Cook who has been a regular speaker at QMS’s network of Grazing Groups.

Mr Cook believes that in Scotland there is huge potential to maximise the use of grazed grass, without compromising production if the nutritional requirements of spring-calving cows at different times of year are fully understood.

Emily Grant, QMS Knowledge Transfer specialist, said: “To be profitable, suckler herds need to wean as many calves as possible per cow mated. Adequate nutrition before and after calving is key to reproductive performance and this new poster highlights those periods where ensuring optimal nutrition will help maximise performance.”

Body Condition Scoring (BCS) is the simplest and most effective way to assess if cows are being fed adequately, and should take place about 85-90 days before calving, and again at calving. At both stages, there is an opportunity to identify the cows that are below target and raise their condition so they can achieve optimum reproductive performance.

Cows that maintain target BCS in the month before calving are more likely to give birth to vigorous calves, have a good colostrum supply and produce more milk, giving their calves the best chance of survival. Cows that meet target condition score at calving will start cycling much quicker and therefore get back into calf as soon as possible, helping to keep a tight calving pattern.

Weaning also provides a condition scoring opportunity. Post weaning, cows with a BCS of greater than 3-3.5 can be held at that score by putting them onto poorer quality grass or using them to tidy up paddocks. This will free up more pasture for any leaner cows and the calves, which are now the profit drivers.

Cows are highly efficient at gaining condition from pasture, creating the opportunity to use extra BCS gained post weaning, as an energy reserve during the winter when feed costs are high. However, any reduction in BCS must be done gradually.

The cow nutrition timeline poster is aimed at pasture-based spring calving herds, and is available free of charge from QMS by calling 0131 472 4040 or can be downloaded free of charge here



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