Kansas State University Expert Advises Beef Cattle Producers on Winter Challenges

By Trish Svoboda

Kansas State University beef extension specialist Justin Waggoner said there are challenges faced by beef cattle producers due to cold January temperatures followed by melting snow creating muddy conditions.

He noted the critical need to monitor the body condition of gestating cows for calving and rebreeding, as thin cows may take longer to cycle back for breeding. Waggoner also advised monitoring replacement heifers’ weights relative to target weights 45-60 days before breeding season due to cold stress potentially affecting their ability to gain weight.

Proper management of feeding sites is also important, according to Waggoner. It’s essential to consider relocating where livestock are fed, especially if cows are still being fed on pasture or hay is being rolled. This move helps minimize damage to specific locations, and cleanup of long-term feeding sites might be necessary once conditions improve. In the growing and finishing sectors, poor pen maintenance and muddy conditions can adversely affect the gain of fed cattle.

“Hoof deep mud can start to impact cattle performance and reduce it by as much as 15%,” Waggoner said, “If we’re in a system where we’d like to market eight-weight (800-pound) calves in March, and if we’re colder and wet, there’s some likelihood that those calves are going to be lighter, so re-evaluating the performance of those calves relative to their optimum marketing date certainly will be beneficial to producers.”

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