Welcome to the February issue of Beef Cattle Tips.  Beef Cattle Tips is a monthly newsletter designed to remind you of timely production practices that could benefit your operation.  Items presented in this newsletter should be completed sometime this month, if it has not already been addressed.
Tips for Spring Calving Herds:
  • Make sure adjustments to winter feeding are made for nursing cows.  Lactating cows require a 10-11% crude protein and 58-60% TDN diet (Factsheet MP391)
    • Switch to a high magnesium mineral to help prevent grass tetany when calving cows are grazing spring pastures (FSA3035).
      • Grass tetany occurs most commonly in the months of February, March, and April. 
      • Normally occurs when cool season forages begin to regrow.
      • Grass tetany is due to an abnormally low level of magnesium in the cow's body.
      • Older lactating cows are more susceptible.
      • Fact Sheet 3084 
  • Watch closely for calf scours
    • Calf scours can be a very costly problem for many producers.
    • Calves suffering from scours can become critically ill in a short period of time.
    • Fact Sheet 3083

Tips for Fall Calving Herds:
  • Castrate male calves at birth or at 3 months processing.  Bull calves are usually discounted $5 per hundred weight.  Castration early in life is easier on the calf.  Research with calves castrated at birth have grown at similar rates of weight gain compared to their intact male pasture mates.  In addition, male calves castrated by stocker producers following salebarn purchase are 2.5 times more likely to become sick than a steer calf purchased through a salebarn market.
Forage Management Tips:
  • Feed hay to reduce waste by feeding in rings, strip feeding under temporary electric wire, or only unrolling enough for a day or less.
  • Strip graze any remaining stockpiled forage to extend grazing days.
  • Limited grazing of winter annuals will improve animal nutrition, extend hay supplies, and allow use of limited high quality forage.
  • Clover and lespedeza can be overseeded during February into short-grazed fescue pastures. Inoculate seed. Consider strip or stripe seeding in difficult areas. Make sure soil test is good enough for clover. Demo project is available for agents.
  • Implement a winter annual weed control program.
  • To promote earlier greenup and grazing of fescue and winter annuals, fertilize specific pastures in February for grazing in March. Other pastures can be fertilized in March for spring. But don't apply N fertilizer where clovers are overseeded or where good clover stands exist.
  • Start rotationally grazing at greenup. Don't let cows chase green grass over the entire farm since that will delay significant growth and sustained grazing even longer. 
  • Soil sampling of pastures.
    • If you were not able to test soil fertility in fall, do so now to avoid fertility shortfalls once temperatures rise and forage begin to grow at a faster rate. Soil samples can be obtained easily and testing them is free of charge.
  • Apply burn-down herbicide to dormant bermudagrass.
    • This is very important for keeping bermudagrass pastures clean of broadleaf weeds. Herbicide of choice is glyphosate.
    • Use rates according to the label; do not skimp with rates, the bermudagrass will not be affected if it is still dormant but weeds will be killed reliably.
    • Reapply herbicide if needed. Bermudagrass should not be mowed/grazed for 60 days after application, so time herbicide application accordingly.
General Things to Consider:
  • Start repairing haying equipment for spring harvest.
  • Some days in February may be better spent indoors than out.  Tax season is approaching so start gathering those sales and purchase receipts for your accountant.  Don't let your tax form be the only financial information for your operation.  Completing a cow-calf enterprise budget each year can help benchmark where money is being spent and how much.  Visit with your count Extension agent to determine where costs of production may be out-of-line and how changes in management can improve your bottom line.