Generally, supplemental feed costs will account for over 50% and total nutrition for over 70% of an operations expense in the maintenance of a beef herd. Therefore, having a true nutritional plan is essential for profitability.

A foundational recommendation in The Solutions Program is a quality mineral formulation for your environment and operation. Not only has it been repeatedly documented that there are essential nutrients and vitamins at low levels in a cow’s diet depending on her environment. Calves with low levels of certain minerals have been shown to have suppressed immune response but recently studies have shown that there is ‘fetal programming’ that occurs during gestation that can further effect the reproductive efficiencies and muscle fiber development of the calves during certain trimesters. A simple and cost effective mineral supplementation can help meet the animal’s requirements and aid in the expression of genetic potential in the upcoming calf crop.By personal discussions that have been had I would say that more herds do not test their hay and forages than those that do. Without knowing what your base for your ration contains it is impossible to properly determine whether supplementation is necessary and at what levels.Evaluating a herd nutritional program and identifying inefficiencies can lead to decreased feed costs.

Program Evaluation

A nutritional program can be evaluated in three basic steps.

1. Understand your production system

The number one goal in beef production is to have a calf per cow every 365 days. If the calving interval extends past this, producers start to lose money quickly. In order to maintain this interval, a cow has approximately 80 days to rebreed after calving. The ability to do this is highly dependent on genetics and nutrition. To put this into perspective, a brood cow will prioritize her nutrients in the following order:

    a) Maintenance
    b) Growth (heifers)
    c) Lactation
    d) Reproduction (cycling)

In other words, the producer’s number one priority (a calf every 365 days) is the cow’s lowest priority (reproduction). To further complicate the situation, the breeding season comes during the peak of her energy demands due to lactation. The figure illustrates the large fluctuation in nutrient needs of a cow that calves in one year, weans, and calves again the following year. If a herd does not have a controlled breeding season or is not separated by production stage, it becomes quite difficult to manage nutrient needs. However, if these changing nutrient demands are understood, a nutritional program can be tailored to meet these needs.


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. Understand your forage program

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Under proper management, forages are the cheapest source of nutrients available for cattle producers. Therefore, maximizing the nutrients harvested from forages can tremendously reduce the need for supplements. In many parts of the Southeast, fresh forage can be produced throughout most of the year and can form the backbone of a nutrition program. On average, hay is fed for 120 days during the winter. In some cases forages can provide the majority, if not all, of a herd’s needed nutrients.

Handling and understanding the nutrients available from hay may be an obstacle. Typically, a hay producer will get three to four cuttings of hay a year. Inevitably, there will be quality differences between cuttings. If producers can follow these steps:

    a) Inventory hay by cutting,
    b) Store it properly to minimize storage losses
    c) Conduct a forage analysis by cutting and match the nutrients available in the hay to the herd’s changing nutritional needs.

3. Develop an economical supplement

In an ideal situation, supplementation of crude protein and energy will be minimal or unnecessary. However, there will be times when supplementation is needed. The key is to identify feeds that supply the nutrients needed and evaluate those feeds on a price-per-nutrient basis (i.e., correcting for moisture content and nutrient content) using the following equation:


$ ⁄ lb of nutrient = ($ / ton ÷ [% dry matter × % nutrient (CP or TDN )] ÷ 2000

Volatile times and costs are dictating that more and more progressive operations choose to operate differently in regards to their nutrition program. Let us help you find a customized approach to the needs of your herd.


If you have questions or would like to place an order, please contact us at (931) 996-2253 or