Limited Volume Could Set Cows Back
The primary issue in early spring is not the quality of available forage, there just isn’t enough of it. When volume of grass is limited, cows will actually burn through more nutrients walking pastures searching for the next green patch than they will be able to consume. If grass is the sole source of nutrition, this nutrient deficit will quickly result in a decrease in body score, impacting lactation and breed back.
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Critical Nutrient Needs
For spring-calving cows, this transition to a grass-only diet also comes at a critical time in the gestational cycle when nutrient requirements are at their highest. In the final trimester of pregnancy and beginning lactation, a cow’s energy and protein requirements increase significantly. Meeting those nutrient needs is vital for adequate milk production (read: this year’s calf crop) and successful rebreeding (read: next year’s calf crop). A cow’s body condition score at calving plays a major role in how quickly she will cycle and rebreed. A minor drop in body score can delay or even prevent breed back, resulting in fewer and smaller calves at weaning.