The gold nugget comes in the fall when the harvesting of forage becomes a buffet waiting to be consumed. On top of the available forage, at least for those who had rain, the cow has an engrained desire to maintain her body weight, grow, produce milk and reproduce.

During tough times, such as a drought, the first thing a cow will do is quit reproducing and then quit producing milk and growing. The cow also may fail to maintain adequate body weight. In the fall, the cow is more than likely already bred and has no need to produce milk. Therefore, when adequate food is present, she grows. She grows muscle and adds conditioning. She also is preparing for the upcoming late gestation calf growth, winter chill and resuming milk production in the spring. After that, the process starts over with breeding.

One could express that same yearly cycle based on daily pounds of TDN that a cow needs to consume. Shane Gadberry, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture assistant professor in nutrition, did that by starting at the time of calving and calculating the daily TDN requirements for twelve months.

The first month of daily TDN requirement is 15.7 pounds. For the next 11 months, the daily TDN requirements are 16.7, 16.4, 15.4, 14.5, 13.7, 10.5, 10.8, 11.2, 11.9, 12.6 and 13.8 pounds, respectively. Using some good logic, a producer will look to see when the lowest TDN requirement is for the cow and take advantage of that time to add some weight back on the cow.

Again, plan ahead because next year’s calves are already growing inside their mothers. It is the producer’s job to help the cows meet their needs and then some. That time is soon, so start thinking.

May you find all your ear tags.

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