February 27, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

In the next 60 days or so, many things will happen on Kentucky’s beef operations. Calving, renovating grass pastures with clover, establishing alfalfa, fertilizing pastures and fields and anticipating breeding season pasture needs will consume producers time and minds.

“All these events directly affect reproductive efficiency and that’s one of the most important factors affecting beef cattle profitability for the cow-calf producer,” said Jimmy Henning, Extension forage specialist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. “Conception and weaning weight are two of the main factors that drive reproductive efficiency and producers need to realize forage crops and forage management directly affect both of those.”

Henning said a cow’s body condition has a big affect on conception rates. Also, many herds already are into their spring calving season. Calving and lactation draw a lot of energy from the cows and they tend to lose weight, which can affect body score.

So what’s the best way to handle all these important management decisions facing producers the next couple of months? Henning said feeding the best hay and supplementing with energy and protein as needed will mean healthier cows and calves.

“Hopefully you’ve had your hay tested and are supplementing according the test results,” he said.

When several management tasks converge at once, there is potential for stress on any forage program, but Henning believes producers can do some things to lift some of the burden. “We are right in the middle of the best time to add clover to grass pastures,” he said. “While we always say good stands of clover are possible from broadcasting seed onto short sod, we are late enough into the seeding window that we need to take more aggressive steps to get clover started.”

He said the broadcast seeding of clover always assumes there will be some bare dirt where seed can fall, plus some external forces such as weather or cattle.

“The later we get into March, the more necessary it becomes to consider those external forces,” he said. “If I was your consultant, I would make sure we exposed some dirt in that field. Dragging, heavy stocking rates and many other things will get the job done. If you put clover seed on bare dirt, add rain or freeze-thaw cycles and then some warmth, you are in the clover business.”

Clover may not add much to the first half of this year’s grazing season, however good clover pastures can help with conception rates and weaning weights, especially in tall fescue-infected pastures.

Picking a variety of clover is always important, he said. Moving up to one of the improved red clovers will help add pounds to yields of pasture, hay and calves.

“The next 60 days will be the key to your beef cattle year,” Henning reminded. “Getting healthy calves on the ground, keeping cows fed and getting clover established are vital.”


Jimmy Henning  859-257-3144