This time of year we usually start to get the question, is it time to switch tubs? Are my cows still getting everything they need as the grass starts to turn? And like any good question the answer is it depends.
If your cows are on native pasture, you may not need the added protein. Native pastures tend to hold their nutritional value better than improved pasture. However, there are a couple other things to consider.
It is important to think about how much forage you have and how long it need to last. By adding by pass protein to the diet like the protein that is in Crystalyx or R&J liquid feeds, cattle will be able to improve their digestion of dried forages and ultimately not need as much grass. By-pass protein is an important tool because rather than directly feeding the animal this protein is for the rumen bugs. Creating an environment where rumen bugs are thriving is what allows the cattle to ultimately get more out of what they are already eating. This can be a great for maximizing production on dry years and during the winter.
Another important point to make is the long term health of the new calf that is fully dependent on the mother’s nutrition. More and more research is being done on the impacts of maternal nutrition in the first two trimesters on the calf’s lifelong production. With a calving date in April, that means that nutrition June through December for mother cows, we now know is critical for the calf’s lifelong development, meat quality and reproductive potential. Although, it is important to clarify that the third trimester is still the most important.
So to answer the original question, yes is probably time to start adding protein, because it will help to make the grass last longer and with the long term health of the herd.