Range on the rebound
The 2011 record drought and merciless heat hammered rangeland. More than 30,000 fires burned 4 million acres. Hundreds of thousands of cattle were impacted.
But many parts of Texas have seen some timely rains this year, and the range is on the rebound. It may be a relief from feeding hay or supplement for some, at least for a while.
“Most native pasture around here — if you have adequate forage — will be enough for cattle in the summer,” says Travis Arledge, DVM, at Winters, Texas. “That’s especially true if you are just talking about protein and carbohydrates. Then you shouldn’t have to feed supplement until winter.”
• Know the nutritional needs of the cattle you put on the range.
• Good native grass should provide protein in the summer.
• Don’t overdo too many vaccines at once in a cow herd.
Nevertheless, Arledge says there are other considerations for cattle on the range. “They need mineral year-round,” he says. Arledge suggests loose mineral. When supplying loose mineral, no separate salt is needed, he says. The veterinarian recommends 70 pounds of loose mineral per cow per year.
A general rule of thumb (per Texas A&M) is that a cow needs 2 gallons of water per day for each 100 pounds of body weight.
For example, a 1,000-pound cow would need 20 gallons of water daily. A lactating cow, or bull, might need 25 gallons.
But Arledge notes daily water needs actually can fluctuate quite a bit depending on the ambient air temperature, and whether or not the grass is wet and providing some water.
Range plants and stocking
Arledge says many toxic plants can be found on the range, but they don’t taste very good and cattle tend to avoid them.
“Usually, cattle only will consume a toxic plant because that’s all they have to choose from,” he says.
The nutritive value of range plants can vary during a grazing period. “Protein changes through the year, and a rancher should be aware of that,” Arledge says.
Cattle raisers are eager to rebuild herds, but should be sensible with stocking rates, he adds.
As an example, he says stocking rates could be one cow to 20 acres in north Runnels County, but go west just next door to Coke County, and the rate could be one cow to 25 or even 30 acres.
On the other hand, some good coastal bermudagrass might allow one cow for 12 to 15 acres.
“A cow that’s thin is not going to get rebred,” Arledge cautions. “So skimping on feed or forage can actually cost. A cow needs to be in top condition; a cow that doesn’t breed and produce a good calf is costing you money.”
Vaccine needs vary greatly among a baby calf, weaned calf, stocker animal and breeder cattle. Don’t overdo vaccines, the veterinarian cautions.
“For a producer that has never had pinkeye in his cattle, there’s no reason for vaccinating for pinkeye,” Arledge says.
He says lots of vaccines are aimed at the same type of bacteria, and giving too many vaccines at once can cause lack of efficacy.
“If you stack too many vaccines together, you can have issues,” Arledge says. “You can get too much product — too many different vaccines — that can overwhelm the immune system sometimes.”
In fact, if you gave every available vaccine for everything out there, you could actually kill an animal.
Arledge says a “cheaper” product doesn’t always save dollars. He personally would opt for name-brand animal pharmaceuticals over generics, and select products that have been proven through research to work.
He notes you can safely give a modified live vaccine, or MLV, to an open heifer prior to breeding, and that can help prevent reproductive disease. But don’t give an MLV to a pregnant cow unless she already has had an MLV before.
Photo courtesy NRCS
This article published in the June, 2012 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.