UACES Facebook December Tips for Beef Cattle/Forage Producers
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December Tips for Beef Cattle/Forage Producers


 General Management:

  • Winter is a good opportunity to catch up on equipment maintenance including lubrication and fluid change of tractors, packing wheel bearings on trailering equipment and checking tires on trailers, field equipment, etc., and replacing floors in stock trailers.
  • During December, some days are better spent indoors than outdoors. Now is a time to summarize herd records for the year and compare to previous year to determine the production direction of the herd. Valuable summaries include changes in 205-day adjusted weaning weights, monthly calving distributions, culling percentages, calf crop percentages, cow age and body condition and calving interval changes.
  • December is a good month to summarize your financial records. Determine your cost for mineral, supplemental feed, vet medicine, fertilizer, hay, weed control, etc. Knowing your cost to maintain a cow per year is very important and will aid in marketing decisions. 
  • Plan next year's budget and production plans.
  • Proper free choice mineral and fresh water is just as important in the winter time as in the summer time.
  • Deworm cattle to prevent weight loss and inefficient use of hay and feed supplements going into the winter.
  • Monitor cattle closely for signs of respiratory disease. The large variations in temperatures can contribute to decreases in respiratory immune function which may lead to pneumonia.
  • Exclude cattle from access to oak trees whenever possible. Acorns are falling and are toxic to cattle causing kidney damage and death.

Tips for Fall Calving Herds:

  • Turn bulls in with cow herd. Watch bulls behavior carefully. Be sure they are seeking cows in estrus and are able to mount and breed cows.
  • Breeding fall calving heifers should be about over by the end of December. It is important for heifers to breed early in their first breeding season and it's a good idea to breed heifers 30 days before the mature cow herd. 
  • Monitor body condition especially if December is cold and wet. Winter weather can bring an increase in TDN and dry matter intake. Additional hay and supplement maybe necessary to maintain proper body condition and performance.  


Tips for Spring Calving Herds:

  • Deworm cows prior to calving.
  • Evaluate heifer weights - it is important heifers weigh 65% of their mature weight at breeding time. Monitoring heifer development and weight gain ensure heifers will reach their target weight.
  • Some pregnant heifers may actually calve in late December. It is very important to watch pregnant heifers very carefully and assistant when necessary. To learn more about calving and when and how to assist during calving read Fact Sheet 3105.   

Forage/Grazing Management Tips:

Pasture Management 

  • Soil fertility management
    • Fall and winter is a good time to correct imbalances in pH
    • Soil fertility and pH should be monitored regularly
      • pH in pasture soil drops relatively fast because of leaching of calcium carbonates and lack of soil mixing like in a cropping system with frequent tillage
      • Correcting pH will take several months so it is wise to check lime requirements before next year's growing season
      • Collect at least 15 subsamples per pasture using a zig-zag course
      • Mix the subsamples then submit one composite sample to the county Extension office
      • Refer to Fact Sheet 2121

Hay management

  • Protect hay when feeding to reduce waste. Feed hay in rings to reduce hay waste. Unrolling hay increases hay waste unless it is done on a limit-feeding basis. 
  • Consider using a temporary electric wire fence to reduce waste from trampling and increases utilization of the hay.
    • Unroll the bale, then string up an electrified polywire down the length of the line of hay.
    • Place the wire about 30 inches high over the hay.
    • Cattle will line up as if eating at a feed bunk.

For more information on any of the above points, contact the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service office at 425-2335.


By Mark Keaton
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Mark Keaton
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
3 East 9th St. Mountain Home AR 72653
(870) 425-2335


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