By BRUCE STEELMAN
The Benefits of a Short Calving Season
Developing and controlling the breeding and the subsequent calving season has many benefits. A shortened calving season provides producers a better opportunity for improved management and observation of the cow herd, which should result in fewer losses at calving and throughout the year. This has been demonstrated several times over the years. A shortened calving season also facilitates improvements in herd health and management such as uniformity in timing of vaccinations and routine management practices resulting in decreased competition for labor.
Another benefit is nutrition of the cow-calf unit can be improved by grouping cows according to stage of gestation and feeding each group based on its needs. An additional benefit is that the calf crop will be more uniform in age and size which can lead to an advantage at marketing.
Research on shortening the calving season has shown that calves born in the first 21days of the calving season will weigh more at weaning than those born during the second 21- day period.
Source: Brent Plugge. 2014 University of Nebraska Extension.
Will the Feed Make Out Through the Winter?
Hay intake is related to the quality. For example, low-quality forages (below about 6% Crude Protein) will be consumed at about 1.5% of body weight (on a dry matter basis) per day.
Higher-quality grass hays (about 8% Crude Protein) may be consumed at about 2.0% of body weight. Excellent hays, such as good alfalfa, silages, or green pasture may be consumed at the rate of 2.5% dry matter of body weight per day. The combination of increased nutrient content and increased forage intake makes high quality forage very valuable to cattle and the producer. Using these intake estimates, producers can calculate the estimated amounts of hay that need to be available.
For example, feeding a 1,200-lb. pregnant spring-calving cow, let's assume that the grass hay quality is good and tested 8% crude protein. Cows will voluntarily consume 2.0% of body weight or 24 lbs/day. The 24 lbs. is based on 100% dry matter. Grass hays will often be 7-10% moisture. If we assume that the hay is 92% dry matter or 8% moisture, then the cows will consume about 26 lbs/day on an 'as-fed basis.'
Not Enough Producers Pregnancy Check Brood Cows
Determining the pregnancy status of beef cattle continues to be one of the most underutilized yet relatively easy to implement management practices available to cow-calf producers. The most obvious reason for pregnancy checking is to identify non-pregnant or open females. Theses cows should be offered for sale as a means to reduce feed expenses. The relatively inexpensive cost of a pregnancy check of $5-$10 can lead to major savings in feed costs in any given year. A significant feed bill can accumulate in the time it would take for an open female to become pregnant, calve, and wean a calf before it can be sold to cover expenses. It would have to be a very "special" open female to justify keeping her around to calve at a much later date.
A timely determination of pregnancy status can greatly benefit the producer in making marketing decisions. There are tremendous marketing opportunities for pregnant and open females in the immediate future. The decision to cull an open or unproductive female for whatever reason should be easier than ever given today's market prices. Prices for cull cows, market heifers, and heavier feeder calves are at record levels so take advantage of this opportunity.
An open cow takes the profit of 2.5 productive cows. If the producer desires to maintain herd numbers at a relatively constant, it would be wise to cull the open female and replace her with a purchased bred female.
Source: Glen Selk. 2014. Oklahoma State University.