Feed high quality hay after calving

Mar 2, 2012

Good cow nutrition is crucial following calving to get cows rebred. Today, let’s review some guidelines to make sure we do the job right. Stick around.

Cows need good feed after calving. Each cow experiences much stress after calving because she is producing milk for her calf and she is preparing her reproductive system to rebreed.

As a result, nutrient demands are high. Energy requirements increase about 30 percent and protein needs nearly double after calving. Underfeeding reduces the amount of milk she provides her calf, and it can delay or even prevent rebreeding. And if it gets cold, wet, or icy again, nutrient demands can skyrocket.

Winter grass, corn stalks, and other crop residues are low quality right now because these feeds are weathered and have been pretty well picked over. So it is critical that the hay or silage you feed will provide the extra nutrients your cows need.

Not just any hay or silage will do. Your cow needs 10 to 12 percent crude protein and 60 to 65 percent TDN in her total diet. If she is grazing poor quality feeds, your forage and supplements must make up any deficiencies.

Make sure your forage has adequate nutrients; if you haven’t done so, get it tested now for protein and energy content. Also determine the nutrient requirements of your cows. Then feed your cows a ration that will meet their requirements. But don’t overfeed, either. That is wasteful and expensive.

In summary, avoid underfeeding after calving; it can delay rebreeding and slow down calf growth. Use good quality forages to provide adequate nutrition. Your cows will milk well, rebreed on time, and produce healthy calves year after year.

Dormant spray for alfalfa weeds

In just a few weeks, warmer spring weather will green up your alfalfa. Before that happens, though, maybe you should do a little weed control.

Weeds like pennycress, downy brome, mustards, cheatgrass, and shepherd’s purse are common in first cut alfalfa. They lower yields, reduce quality, lessen palatability, and slow hay drydown. If you walk over your fields during the next few weeks when snow is gone you should be able to see their small, green, overwintering growth.

Once alfalfa starts growing, you can’t control these weeds very well without hurting your alfalfa. However, if you treat your alfalfa as soon as possible during this winter’s next spring like weather, you can have cleaner, healthier alfalfa at first cutting.

Several herbicides can help control winter annual grasses and weeds in alfalfa. They include Sencor, Velpar, Sinbar, Pursuit, Raptor, and Karmex. Also Roundup and Gramoxone. They all control mustards and pennycress but Karmex and Pursuit do not control downy brome very well.

To be most successful, though, you must apply most of these herbicides before alfalfa shoots green-up this spring to avoid much injury to your alfalfa. During mild winter weather would be a great time. If you wait and alfalfa shoots are green when you spray, your alfalfa growth might be set back a couple weeks. If it does get late, use either Pursuit or Raptor because they tend to cause less injury to your alfalfa.

Timing is crucial when controlling winter annual weeds in alfalfa. Get ready now, in the next few weeks before alfalfa greens up, to take advantage of nice weather when you get it.

Successful establishment

Stand failure is expensive. It costs more money to reseed and lost production from today’s high value land adds up quickly. In a moment, let’s review important steps to be successful.

Before planting alfalfa, grass, or other forages this spring, make sure you take the steps needed to give you the best chance for a successful establishment.

What are these steps?

Well, they may vary a little bit from farm to farm and field to field, but most fields need the following actions.

Begin by making sure the field is suitable for whatever you intend to plant. Seeding alfalfa in an area that frequently gets flooded or has standing water is not likely to produce long-term success. Next, soil test and add recommended fertilizer and lime before planting.

Probably one of the most important steps is preparing a firm seedbed. Walk across the field before planting. You should sink no deeper than the soles of your shoes or boots. Or bounce a basketball on your seedbed. If the ball won’t bounce back up, your seedbed to too soft. Firm it some more with a flat harrow, a roller, or maybe even irrigate.

One of the most common causes of poor forage stands is planting too deep. Most forage seeds are very small and should be planted no more than a quarter to half inch deep on heavy or fine textured soils or a half to one inch deep on sands or coarse textured soils.

Lastly, control weeds. Tillage during seedbed preparation, burn-down herbicides before planting, pre-plant incorporated herbicides, post-emerge herbicides, and even mowing all are possible methods.

It’s tempting to take shortcuts with any one of these steps. For your best chance of success, though, follow them all to avoid costly failures. — University of Nebraska Extension