His philosophy is simple: Keep the body condition score up during the third trimester or suffer the consequences of playing catch-up later.

The 600-head ranch in Scott City, Kansas, has shifted the way they care for their beef cows and an emphasis on nutrition in the third trimester has taken precedence in the last three years.

Turner, 41, has assisted owner Bill Huseman with the ranch since 1999 and has 200 of his own cows.

The operation calves in the spring and Turner keeps a close eye on his herd’s body score and condition going into January.

The drought has forced the ranch to switch from using range cubes to a feeding truck that mixes in trace minerals and adds a yeast-based product that supports gut health during the cows’ third trimester and promotes an efficient nutrient transfer from cow to calf through the improvement of colostrum quality.


“We’re in the same ball game as everyone else,” Turner said. “Open cows are going to cost you a lot more when you could have kept your mineral program up.”

The third trimester of a cow’s life is crucial. In the last three months, the calf will put on 70 percent of its weight and the mother cow will not only need to prepare for the birth but for lactating and rebreeding.

The cow is starting to produce colostrum, which can deplete primary resources used toward cow maintenance and fetal growth.

Rex Larsen, north region sales manager with Intermountain Farmers Association, tells producers to keep the building blocks of immunity in place during this time.

“Trace elements are being stored in the fetus through the cow,” he said. “A mother is doing all she can to protect the fetus. I believe more and more in the right supplementation.”

Larsen said calves will respond better to vaccines if they have the proper minerals in their feed. Research suggests zinc, copper, selenium, manganese and cobalt are critical for growth.

And Larsen recommends a hydrolyzed yeast product to producers to address gastrointestinal health and stability and promote efficient nutrient transfer from cow to calf.

With high-quality colostrum, newborn calves will be able to implement their own immunity sooner and stronger and fight off environmental exposures.

Turner says the yeast-based product “has taken care of the scouring problems I used to see on my ranch and I include it in my feed 30 days before and after calving.”

In addition to a good mineral program, Larsen suggests separating cows by body condition score so additional feed can go to cows with a score less than five.

He urges producers to precondition cows in the last trimester as a way to stay ahead of the curve.

“It takes more when she is lactating. Every good producer understands that. When feed costs are extremely high, it’s good to have the reminder that you are investing in next year’s program,” he said.

“It’s the most critical three months of a cow’s reproductive life. If she is going to return to estrous and start another cycle, then it’s important to keep her healthy.”  end mark

jenny jennings

Jenny Jennings Ph.D.

Research Manager for Ruminant Nutrition