Hi I’m Mike. Life for a cow on the ranch is a bit more
complicated than we might imagine, and when it comes to their diet, its always changing
with the season, and we have to change with it. Today we take a look at a cows calendar and
how their lives change through the year and how that can affect what happens to the herd
and the bottom line, on our Wyoming life. Since June the cows have been on their own
when it comes to their daily feed. Once grass starts to grow on the prairie in
the spring its hard to keep them interested in the hay that we had been providing during
the winter. We call that chasing grass, when the cows
stop coming in for feed and start to stretch their legs, moving away from the comfort and
safety of the main ranch and toward the pasture of their dreams. All of this happens in the spring and is what
we consider the start of the grazing season for the cow. From here on out, until they start getting
fed again in the winter. They are foraging for their own food, but
like any good parent, we hang out in the wings as they move away from home once again and
keep an eye on what and how they are doing. On the ranch we have to live by two calendars. One is the traditional Gregorian calendar
is the calendar used in most of the world. With it we can track days, weeks, months and
years and even seasons. But more importantly we can track when things
need to happen, or more specifically events that dictate when things need to happen. We can expect grass to start growing in Mid
May, we know that our last frost has a 50% chance of happening by May 20th and by October
1st, we should expect our first hard frost or a temperature below 25 degrees or so. Of course knowing these dates are essential,
but another calendar that we work off of here on the ranch is the cow calendar, or the cow
production cycle. This calendar is completely based on a cows
yearly cycle on the ranch. It can start anywhere but we usually start
the calendar at calving and if we look at the cows calendar like a clock, that is 12
o’clock. After a cow has her calf, we enter the postpartum
period of 90 days. Most cows wont come into heat until 30 to
45 days after calving, longer if nutrition is poor so its very important at this stage
cows are getting all the vitamins, minerals and protein that they need. Cows are also lactating this period, making
nutrition even more important. Cows have to lactate, repair reproductive
tracts, resume heat cycles, increase activity, all of that takes energy and during that time
we want to make sure that cows are getting a higher protein level. Its going to differ based on your geographical
location but this is why we choose to calve when we do. After calving, we can supplement feed with
a higher protein level of hay then grass starts to grow, and by the time they are out on pasture,
that new green grass is at some of the highest protein levels it will ever be. After the 90 days in the postpartum stage,
cows are then lactating and pregnant for the next 90 days. This is where they are now and at the end
of this 90 day cycle the calves will be weaned off of their moms and shipped off. That will happen in Mid October, but for now
we are dealing with a whole new environment that the cows are living in. The summer is over, fall is taking hold. We’ve had less than 2 inches of rain the
last 2 months and the prairie is slowly drying up. Fire danger is high and the cows are not receiving
anywhere near the same nutrition from this grass that they got over the last few months. Of course there is really no way to know for
sure, the nutrition levels of the grass your cows are eating, unless you have it tested. Labs like Midwest Laboratories are essential
for cattle producers who have to make sure their cattle are performing at tip top shape. Every bit of supplement you feed to cattle
costs money and cuts into the profitability of the ranch, and without testing you may
be wasting money, any excess minerals are released with urine and excess protein, well
ask any cattleman about blowback from a cow and they will tell you where that protein
goes. The great part is you don’t have to test
continually. You know your soil, you know your weather
better than anyone. Start taking samples at certain times of the
year, track your weather and start a spreadsheet. You can actually watch how weather, rain,
heat can affect the protein and mineral content of your natural grasses. Once you know that a cow in this pregnant
and lactating stage requires about 8% protein then you can make the informed decision if
you need to supplement their feed with additional protein sources, be it cake, or lick tubs
or whatever you choose to do. Here on our ranch, we consult with our vet
and know that this time of year our protein content of grass is dwindling day by day. We also know that the cows have reached their
peak lactation and their milk production is decreasing. The cows are pregnant, but fetal growth is
minimal right now and doesn’t add much to their requirements. However they are still very active, they are
moving constantly and with the lower nutrition value of the grass, they might need a bit
of a boost although most cows will actually lose weight during this period. We also have their calves to think about,
and the weight that we need them to be at sale time. Calves gain weight at the rate of about 2
lbs per day. We want our calves to wean at about 500 lbs
or so and we also want to wean them at the end of this 90 day period. All of this has to align, like the stars in
some romantic movie and the trick is to get it to happen. This is a creep feeder. It’s a small feeder that is designed to
only feed calves. Only calves can fit inside it and their moms
are left well without. What we feed them inside the feeder can differ. Sometimes we want to put on weight fast, they
make special program feeds to do that, like calf growers, but we have found that we can
usually get away with just a grass based feed, like oats and sometimes corn to get these
calves up to a weight that we want to sell at. Today, we are adding crimped oats to the feeder. The conversion of feed to weight for the calves
can differ based on what you are feeding. From 3 to 12 pounds of feed for each pound
of extra gain. Based on your feed cost, you can decide if
that is worth it. When creep feeding it comes down to the cost
of gain. Most years our cost of gain is very close
to break even, more importantly for us, creep feeding can help out poor milking cow. Calves whos moms don’t give the best milk
may eat more feed to make up for it. And by paying attention to calves that always
seem to be in the feeder or around it, we can tell whose moms are in need of an evaluation
of their performance in the herd. By using a grain-based creep we are limiting
cost and also keeping control of the protein levels given the calves. Also at this stage we make sure that the cows
have free access to mineral in the form of lick barrels and of course as always salt
and trace minerals. TALK
Soon, the ranch will be entering the gestation state of the cow calendar. This is the 100 or so days after the calves
are weaned from their moms. Moms energy needs will be reduced by about
25%, protein requirements drop as well and it’s the best time to add some of the weight
that cows have lost over the past couple of months. Cows are still pregnant but fetal growth is
still slow and the cows activity decreases. This is also when cows voluntary eating is
the lowest, so we have to take the supplement to them if we want them to gain weight. Luckily this stage is timed out when we are
feeding during winter and activity is expected to be way down anyway. And then we come into pre calving, 50 to 60
days before their calves are born. The most critical time of the cows year and
ours. Energy and protein requirements increase by
up to 25%, fetal growth is amazingly fast and a calf will gain up to 60 lbs during this
last 50 days. Keep in mind a newborn is only going to weight
between 70 to 100 lbs. Cows are preparing for lacation and throughout
all this, feed intake actually goes down, because that calf is taking up so much room. Feed, supplements, protein, mineral and all
the good stuff are required to be top notch. But that is a ways down the road still. The cows calendar is moving right along, just
as we expect it to. And so is ours. September is winding down to an end, soon
snow will fly and our lives will shift gears once again. Priorities will change but at the core of
everything is just one cow and her internal timer, ticking down to that one day, when
her calf hits the ground. Thanks for coming along, be sure to subscribe,
we have a lot more coming from the ranch and October is always a busy month for us. Next week we will be moving bulls, sorting
them off the cows and hunting season starts soon as well. In addition the ranches one big paycheck of
the year is only a few weeks away as we head into auction and take you along with us as
we continue to explore the ranch life and escape the ordinary. I’ll see you again soon, in the meantime
check out the website, ourwyominglife.com and sign up for our weekly newsletter where
you can get all the behind the scenes and direct access to the ranch. Until we see each other again, Have a great
week, and thanks for joining us in our Wyoming life.