Semi-Confined Cow/Calf Systems in the Texas Panhandle



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Drought is common to Texas and the Great plains. This area experienced record drought during 2011-2012, prompting record cowherd liquidation. During extreme drought, forage is unavailable for grazing and hay is likewise unavailable or expensive. Cow/calf systems that minimize land and forage use are needed. Feed and labor costs in confinement cow/calf systems using concentrate diets are not well established. Cows were wintered in semi-confinement on diets differing in forage and grain composition for two consecutive winters. Costs and labor requirements for treatments differing in forage and grain composition were measured. Results indicate that high concentrate confinement systems diets may provide viable alternatives to forage-based cow/calf systems. In another experiment, Angus-cross cows (n = 48; initial BW=1,512 ± 159 lbs) were stratified by BW and randomly assigned to eight pens with six hd/pen, replicated four times. Treatments were limit-fed Sweet Bran and conventional free choice hay fed during the third trimester of gestation. Results showed no difference in birth weighs or weight of calves at branding. However, cows on the limit fed Sweet Bran diet did gain more weight during the feeding period and had a higher BCS. From the results of the experiments, a decision aid worksheet is presented to assist producers in choosing a semi-confinement system.



Key Words: Confinement cow-calf systems, cow costs, drought management, decision aid


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