Cattle Nutritional Decline in the Winter
By Guy Sheppard, DVM
In early December, livestock submitted for necropsy at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) in College Station demonstrated various signs of declining nutrition. Not coincidentally, most of Texas received the first frosts and freezes of the year within this same time period. Despite the fact that generous rains in Texas produced an abundance of forage for grazing, the nutritional value of this forage declined considerably after frost. Animals that have been thriving in the pastures can very quickly become weak and possibly even die. When a decline in nutrition is coupled with other stresses such as advanced age, parasitism, lactation, or pregnancy, the consequences of declining nutrition can be multiplied.
It is certainly preferable to supplement declining nutritional conditions prior to the animals becoming visibly compromised. Although primarily designed for dairy cattle, the Metabolic Profiles offered at TVMDL Amarillo can be useful to assess the protein and energy balance of populations/groups of beef cattle under range conditions. Samples should be collected from at least 10 apparently healthy animals in the group. A spread sheet that calculates the population mean of the results of the tests can be utilized to determine if energy and/or protein requirements are being met for the cattle. Before sending in samples for Metabolic Profile testing, TVMDL recommends speaking to one of the veterinary diagnosticians to help assess the situation and establish a plan for assessing the nutritional status of your livestock.
For more information on bovine test offerings at TVMDL, visit tvmdl.tamu.edu or call 1.888.646.5623 for TVMDL College Station or 1.888.646.5624 for TVMDL Amarillo.