I think I have my problem figured out, but want to check with wiser heads than mine about what I am doing. I have been feeding grass hay with a bit (and I do mean a bit) of third cutting alfalfa to all of the milking cows and steer. A bit comes out to about a flake of small baled alfalfa to each animal. I let them eat in the manger for a couple of hours and then lock them out until the evening feeding and repeat the process. Milking cows are just the range moms... not dairy. This morning, I let them eat all of the hay they wanted, for as long as they wanted to eat, because I was getting ready to turn them onto the grass pasture. This is not irrigated grass.... just rangeland. I figure there is about a week's worth of grass out there before I lock them back up in the sacrifice lot for a couple of weeks.... sort of rotational grazing. I took a good look at them as they left the lot, and their bellies were pretty full.... no ribs showing which means to me ... they have to lose some more weight. The range section gives them a lot of exercise just getting out to eat and coming back up for water. What do you think? Will the mamas start losing weight???? I plan on breeding back over the course of the next month and maybe into July.... what more can I do? I don't intend to give them anything extra from the mangers through out this week... will save that regime for when they are in the lot area.
Unless you are in a situation where you may lose all of you grass if you overgraze it, let the cows just graze on grass. If grass is in that short of supply you may want to rethink your stocking ratios. Your cows shouldn't need all of the suplmenting if they are on good grass. The only time we feed hay in the summer is if it is a drought year. We do put out breeder cubes(20% protien) about twice a week at a ratio of 50lbs. per 12 cows. It is more to keep the cows settled down around us, then it is for the nutrition. We have yet to have a cow not breed back nor have we had any calving problems.
We are just starting out, and do not have all of the fences put up that we eventually have planned for rotational grazing. I have two small areas, so far, that I pen them up in during alternate weeks, in order to keep the big area from getting so overgrazed that there will be no grass for it when we do get it fenced. Like you, I am feeding them in the mangers about every third feeding just to keep them used to the idea of coming around us. I only have ten head at this point, and never see a time when I will have more than twenty-five head of mama cows, since I don't irrigate our high desert pasture/pastures. Our yearly rainfall is eight inch average, so the term "drought" is pretty common around here. We are doing some experimental farming along with the cattle. So far, the big pasture looks to have more grass in it than I first thought, so maybe a few more days than the first idea of a week may be all right. Point taken about watching the numbers of our herd. I can tell you one thing. Our big pasture is greatly improved after last year's grazing program. It was the winter that really did my cattle in as far as overconditioning, and a large part of that was their not having to move very much to get water and feed.