Considerations for managing beef cows in confinement
Continued volatility of grain markets, coupled with recent summer droughts, has had a significant impact on the Midwestern cow-calf sector in recent years. These factors, along with decreased land availability for grazing and forage production, has resulted in increased cost of production and left many producers pondering alternative management systems for their herds. One such management alternative that is capturing the interest of many producers is the concept of confinement housing of the cow herd. In many parts of the United States, where year-round grazing is either not feasible, or is not implemented, confinement housing of the cow herd is not necessarily a novel practice. Often times, cows are placed on a sacrifice paddock or drylot with varying degrees of access to shelter for a period of time during the winter months, leading up to and sometimes through the calving season. However, with reduced land access and increasing forage prices, an increased proportion of producers are managing cows in confinement during times of the year traditionally devoted to grazing. With these management alterations come various considerations that should be acknowledged.