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Navigating cattle care post-wildfire - Essential nutrition tactics


Following a wildfire, ranching operations often face a dire shortage of forage for their cattle, demanding immediate and strategic nutritional management. Oklahoma State University specialists provide key emergency feeding strategies designed to sustain cattle through these challenging times while minimizing stress and weight loss. 

Creep Feed Method - Initially, utilize a commercial low-protein, low-starch feed for a brief period to curb weight loss until hay is available. Aimed at pregnant beef cows, this involves feeding at about 0.6% of body weight daily, translating to around 8 pounds per day for a 1,200-pound cow. This approach, suitable for four to five days, prevents digestive issues and prepares for a transition back to hay. 

Combining Limited Hay with Concentrates - When some hay is obtainable, combining very limited hay portions (around 0.5% of body weight) with concentrated feed (about 1% of body weight) like creep feed can effectively extend hay reserves. This necessitates daily feeding and equitable distribution to ensure all cattle have access. 

Both strategies underline the importance of maintaining a balanced diet with mineral supplements, particularly high-calcium minerals to balance concentrate feed's phosphorus levels. Always ensure the inclusion of essential vitamins and unfailing access to clean water. 

These emergency nutritional approaches help ranchers navigate the interim period after a wildfire, striving to maintain cattle health and stretch forage supplies until natural pastures can recover. Collaboration with nutrition professionals and extension educators is recommended to customize these strategies to specific herd needs, ensuring optimal health and resilience of the cattle during recovery phases.

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