Founder more prominent this winter

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jan 14, 2005
by WLJ
Ruminant nutritionists around the country are urging cow/calf producers to use extra caution this winter when feeding or supplementing corn in their cattle rations. Several sources indicated that warmer-than-normal temperatures and cheap grain prices could combine to create a problem with more cattle foundering than normal.
“There is no doubt that corn is a cheap feed resource right now, and it can hold a place in cow nutrition and management throughout the winter,” said Doug Linfield, nutritionist with Ruminant Specialists Inc., Hugoton, KS. “However, as good as an option as it is, it isn’t a good idea to rely on it too much. Cows can overeat on corn and that can result in aborting their babies, crippling them for life, or even killing them.”
He said there has been more cases of founder reported to him since November than the previous three-and-a-half years combined, and that several colleagues have indicated several herds have had more than double-digit founder diagnoses.
Reasons behind the increase in founder has been the better availability of sub-$2 per bushel corn, unseasonably mild winter weather through most of November and the first half of December, and the lack of extra forage available to cattle.
“Up until the past several weeks, weather was wet but it wasn’t accompanied by severe cold or winds nationwide,” said Linfield. “As a result, cattle haven’t needed as much energy to both meet the needs of their fetus or their own usual winter nutritional requirements. That extra energy, from more corn, is not being utilized and is being stored in the joints of animals, which isn’t a healthy situation.”
However, Linfield said cattle will usually eat whatever is put in front of them, even if it is too much. If that is the case with corn, founder will happen very quickly.
Several nutritionists suggested producers cut back on their corn usage, and that a good rule of thumb to use is give free-choice forage to cows and feed them one pound of corn for every 350 pounds of body weight per day. If temperatures drop below freezing, an extra pound of grain is suggested. For cows in their third trimester of pregnancy, an extra half- to three-quarters-of-a-pound of corn can be fed.
“In most circumstances, going above five or six pounds of grain a day is inviting trouble, particularly if there is plenty of forage available for cattle to ruminate on,” Linfield said. “If inclement weather conditions—particularly heavy, wet snow and high winds—start to become a constant battle, then upping that amount is feasible, but only by a pound, maybe two, per day.”
However, producers are also urged to make sure that cows are only eating grain planned for individual diets and are not moving around and eating feed that has been placed in front of other cows.
“If you go short on your feed estimates, you are ensured of minimizing problems with founder, if experiencing it at all,” said Linfield.