Management By Nutrient Needs

Information on nutrient requirements is available for almost all possible animal classifications and production levels.[4] The annual cycle of reproduction is a useful calendar to formulate nutritional schemes to meet the animals' requirements. A nationally accepted and implemented system of visual body condition scores is a simple yet powerful evaluation tool.[3,4] Successful implementation of the tool keeps animals from becoming too thin or too fat to meet production goals. For example, during the 100 days around calving (30 days before calving, 70 days after), nutrient requirements of females increase to about 1.5 times their maintenance needs. The manager monitors body condition scores of the females and provides access to feed accordingly.

Both bulls and breeding females may be fed extra feed to improve probability of conception. However, it is important that virgin (first calf) heifers gain weight at a prescribed rate to avoid over- or under-condition at their first calving. Available tables[4] allow managers to fit breed, age, weather, and other conditions to recommended ration formulations and feeding levels.

Specific information on postweaning growth of calves likewise is available to match a variety of genetic, physiological, and ambient conditions to desired rates of weight gain.[4] These factors, plus nutrient composition of feedstuffs, are factored into equations that help managers provide amounts of feed that are compatible with the animals' nutrient requirements and economic considerations.

Managers of purebred herds have special nutrient considerations that center on the physical appearance of the animals. Much of this management is subjective and has more to do with the reputation of the breeder than the nutrient requirements of the animals.

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