Monitoring Body Condition of the Beef Herd in Late Summer

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As we continue through July and start to get into August, it is important to monitor the body condition of your cattle, and to adjust the herd nutrition plan around to maintain favorable body condition. We are deep into the “summer slump”, or the time of the year when our cool-season pastures have very little top growth happening. Pasture nutritional quality also tends to decrease this time of year in our area as grasses mature, and weeds become more prominent. As a result, overall body condition of the cow herd can become less favorable in a short amount of time. It is important to monitor overall cow body condition, and adjust the beef feeding plan accordingly.

Cows on Pasture

When pasture growth slows in the fall, and grass comes in short supply, it is important to consider feeding hay or supplement to maintain favorable body condition. These heifers have the desired body condition score ranging between 5 and 6.

Maintaining good body condition is essential for those cows that calved later in the spring, or in the summer and still have a nursing calf on their side. Feeding the calf takes a lot of energy. If pasture quality and availability decrease too much, it will not only impact the cow, but also calf growth and production (i.e. weaning weights). Keeping up body condition is also especially important for cows that are to be bred later in November/December for the Fall calving herd. The research shows that cows having a favorable body condition of 5 to 6 going into the breeding season have much higher rates of conception, and breed more quickly than cows that are too poor, or highly over-conditioned. Don’t wait until 30 days before putting the bull in with the cows to start thinking about managing the body condition of your herd cows.

If the cows start to look on the thin side, and good quality grass becomes in short supply, it may be time to feed a little bit of hay or consider giving some feed to add condition to them. Cattle typically will be more hesitant to eat hay this time of year, so feeding a grain or feed ration supplement may be the better option.

Keep in mind that not all feeds are the same. Some provide more energy than others. Beef cattle producers may also want to consider testing their hay for quality to see if providing feed supplement in addition to hay will be required if there is a need to improve overall herd body condition. Now is a great time hay test, and testing can be done through the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Yancey County Center.

If you would like to discuss your beef cattle herd feeding plan in more detail, would like to test your hay, have other cattle production related questions, or if you would like to request a farm visit, feel free to contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Yancey County Center by calling 828-682-6186. You may also send an email to David Davis (, County Extension Director.

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