Without a good cowherd there can be no bulls. Every one of our purebred cows spends her lifetime, other than breeding season, running alongside our commercial cows. If they cannot maintain their condition and bring a good calf home every fall they are culled.
Our cows calve in May and June, on grass, with a minimum of supervision. Quite honestly we just don't have time to play nursemaid to every cow. They are rotated through pastures all summer and fall, then put on crop stubble and wasteland. The calves are weaned in November or December and we usually don’t have to start feeding cows until sometime in January.
For the past number of years our winter feeding program has consisted of baled greenfeed and alfalfa/grass hay. We are currently experimenting with feeding standing corn in order to decrease our winter feed costs. Our cows are expected to maintain their condition on a ration that is nutritionally equivalent to average beef quality hay. When the snow melts in early April the cows begin to graze carry over grass that was set aside last summer.
As the new growth starts to come on at the end of the month the cows begin to start calving. It is in this May and June time period, right through calving, that we expect our cows to gain weight, rapidly, and most of them do. The two most important things to us in a beef cow are fertility and fleshing ability.