stockpile yield is usually achieved in about 75 days during the late summer-fall growing season. Managing for maximum yield generally results in lower forage quality than calves require. If the sward is topgrazed with the calves only harvesting 25 to 35% of the available forage, calf performance will still be acceptable. If cows are expected to graze the residual forage after calves have been moved off pastures, maximum yield strategy can work. If only calves are expected to use the pasture, shortening the stockpile growth period to 30 to 50 days will result in much higher quality forage.
Applying 40 to 60 lbs N/acre will accelerate growth and provide slightly higher quality forage for the calves. If at least 40% of the annual production of the pasture is from legumes, adding N is not likely to be cost effective. Grass-legume pastures can provide very good quality fall and early winter pastures but should be utilized earlier in the winter before stockpiled fescue pastures as the legumes deteriorate in quality much more rapidly than does tall fescue.
For spring weaned calves, early first- growth pasture will be of excellent quality as long as vegetative conditions are maintained. If the forage becomes too mature before weaning occurs, performance and health during the weaning period may be reduced. If calves are not weaned until June or July, clipping pastures early or using regrowth on early cut hay fields can provide excellent quality early summer weaning pastures.
A sound, ongoing herd health program will help ensure healthy calves at weaning. Maintaining a regular vaccination schedule for both cows and calves is usually much less expensive than doctoring sick calves at weaning. Specific vaccination programs will vary depending upon region and individual herd history. The following health program is what has been used routinely for several years at FSRC.
2-4 week prior to weaning:
- 7-way blackleg IBR/PI3
- Haemophilus somnus
- Pasturella haemolytica
- Dewormer and pour-on