GFM Network News



Prep heifers for breeding and calving

Bred or unbred, these animals need energy to grow

Many producers are retaining more replacement heifers than in previous years. There are many good reasons to do so, but if so they should assure that unbred replacements are receiving adequate midwinter nutrition in order to be ready for breeding in the spring and ready to give birth to their first healthy calf. Given that […] Read more


It’s not very glamorous but you can learn a lot by studying the shape and consistency of a cow pie.

Be careful not to step in it

Watching cows’ poop helps you learn about what they’re eating

Anytime that I walk through a dairy barn, I walk in front of the feed bunk and usually watch the cows defecate. Their fresh cow pies reflect on how well their milking diet is being consumed and digested. If something is out of line, manure consistency and content warn me almost immediately. So then I […] Read more

Beef cattle need to be kept in 2.5 to 3 body condition score range heading into calving season.

Proper rations for winter cattle feeding and calving

Cows need to maintain body condition and feed a fetus

There are several kilometres of Highway 59 in southern Manitoba which provide a snapshot of winter-feeding programs. Despite several feet of snow in the winter, I often see many cow herds being overwintered along this stretch of road, since in each one of the adjoining yards are rows of hay bales that I can see […] Read more


Ahead of calving season make sure cattle have an available supply of vitamin A.

Serious consequences for cows with a vitamin A deficiency

Treat with an injection, or top up the vitamin/mineral mix

Early winter is the best time for many beef producers to switch their cow herds to a specialized “winter” vitamin-mineral premix. Gestating cows need more dietary vitamin A as they move throughout the winter and onto the last few months before calving. In this way, nobody gets caught short on providing such an essential nutrient […] Read more

Loose-cornstalk residue left in the field for grazing cattle has a different nutritional value than cornstalk bales.

Cornstalk bales can have a fit in beef diets

It’s not amazing feed, but with proper testing it can work in winter rations

A few years ago I was visiting a small cow-calf operation and as I approached the house I noticed that there were rows of snow-covered round bales that literarily looked like baled alligators. The producer told me he baled left-over cornstalks within days of harvesting grain corn, and said that it took a couple of […] Read more


Feeding milk replacer can be part of a well-balanced calf-feeding program.

Prevent abomasal bloat in young dairy calves

Several factors related to feeding may cause the disorder

Once the dairy calf hits the straw of the maternal pen, it is removed from its mother and shuttled away to an individual pen or hutch where abomasal bloat is often waiting. Although not fully understood by dairy veterinarians and specialists, the relatively high incidence of abomasal bloat in young dairy calves can be significantly […] Read more

It is important to figure out the economics of backgrounding 
calves for your operation.

Backgrounding calves is an option

Important to look at the economics to make sure

Recently, I asked a local beef producer of a 200-head cow herd what she planned to do with her spring calves after they were weaned. She said that in late October, her son brings all cows and calves home from pasture, weans them, retains two dozen replacement heifers and trucks the rest to a feedlot […] Read more


Don’t underestimate the value of provide cattle with good quality water.

Do you know what’s swimming in your livestock water?

Good clean water is the most important nutrient

A university professor once told our beef science class that many things that aren’t fish are swimming in most beef cows’ drinking water. As an undergraduate, I envisioned snails and frogs being sucked up by thirsty cows, but soon realized that he was talking about the many undesirable things not visible to the naked eye. […] Read more

The proper forage fibre is an important factor in minimizing effects of acidosis.

Signs of acidosis aren’t always clear

Dairy Corner: Correcting fibre in the diet can get milk production back on track

In my experience, only a handful of producers fail to notice the few cases of mild sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) which pop up on occasion. In most barn walks that I have conducted, producers accept SARA as routine, yet know it can adversely affect cows’ health, reproduction and milk/milkfat yield. In some of these cases, […] Read more