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Interpretive Summary: Myersocough beef cowcalf pairs housing drylot

By: Caitlin Vonderohe

Drylots are becoming a more common method of managing cow/calf pairs because they provide more flexibility for nutritional management, calving monitoring and provide shelter from wind and rain to decrease maintenance nutrition requirements in the winter. However, limited work has focused on the impact of dry-lot cow/calf management on cow/calf behavior and performance around the time of weaning. A recent paper by Myerscough et al., published in the Journal of Animal Science explored the effect of housing cow-calf pairs on drylots compared to pasture on cow performance and reproduction and calf behavior at weaning and feedlot receiving. 

Two hundred-sixteen cow/calf were assigned to pasture or drylot management until calves were weaned. At the time of weaning, all calves were brought into a dry lot and transported to the university feedlot. Cows were weighed at the start of the trial and at weaning. Calf weight was recorded at the start of the study, aft weaning and weigh-suckle-weigh was used during the study to estimate milk production. Calf behavior was observed the first day after weaning for signs of distress. 

Cows managed on a drylot system had greater bodyweight  at the time of weaning compared to those maintained on pasture. However, cows maintained on pasture had greater locomotion scores (greater degree of lameness) at the midpoint and end of the trial. There were no differences in reproductive performance or pregnancy rate between cows managed on dry lot versus pasture. Calves on drylot were heavier and had greater average daily gain from the midpoint to the end of the study. Calf behavior during weaning and into feedlot receiving was dependent on time of day, with some effect of pasture versus drylot management. Calf performance into feedlot management was similar across treatments. Overall, housing cow/calf pairs on a dry lot may elicit more predictable performance and remain a viable alternative to pasture.