Today, I will share information from a UGA revised publication by Ted Dyer and Carole Hicks, UGA Extension Animal Scientists for beef cattle.
When you think about improving your percent calf crop, we need to think about reproductive efficiency. To be productive, a cow needs to conceive during the first 40-60 days of the breeding season, have a calf unassisted, breed back to calve every 12 months and be able to raise a quality calf. The cow must be managed to be able to accomplish these goals.
Body condition of the cow is a very important factor in efficiency of that animal. A cow that is in good body condition will have a better chance of breeding back within 80 days of the breeding season. This will keep her calving each year. There is a body condition chart of 1-9 scores for body shape. The goal is to keep cows close to the middle of the chart. You do not want cattle too thin or obese. Calving when cows will have advantage of good forage is a point to consider also. The management tool helps in several ways. First, calving when grass is more abundant will cut back on your additional feeding of processed feeds and hay. Plus, calving when forage is of better quality and abundance can increase milk production and lessen the time it takes for cows to get bred back. According to Dyer and Hicks, a goal of every operation should be to get 70 percent of your herd calving in the first 21 days of calving season. One culling tool is to keep cows that calve earlier in the season compared to those late calving cows.
During calving season, it is a must that you step up your game in monitoring the herd. Knowing breeding dates will help you determine that cow’s calving window. Many producers will put cows in smaller pastures where observation can be easier. This helps when you are checking cows at night.
Also, having the herd closer to the barn facilities can be a comfort if you need to assist a cow or heifer that is experiencing calving difficulty. You should become experienced in how to assist a cow with a difficult birth. A good plan too is have a working relationship with your large animal vet prior to calving seasons for any issues that may arise. Remember, the more live calves you can get through calving season can help your profit. Record keeping is a must. Every business needs to keep records. A cattle operation is no different. Keep up with breeding dates, calving date, type of birth, ease of birth, identification of the cow and calf. You can keep this in a notebook or keep on a computer. This information can be helpful when making farm management decisions. Remember too that after calving the cow has her highest nutritional needs. Increasing nutritional levels following calving can help the cow conceive back quicker and keep good body condition.
According to Dyer and Hicks, a controlled breeding season will help the overall marketability and uniformity of the calf crop, makes meeting the nutritional needs of the cow herd more cost effective plus it helps by having a shorter window you have to watch cows during calving season. If calving out first calf heifers, it is suggested to bred them to calve 30 days prior to the mature cows. This will give heifers more time to rebreed and stay in line with the mature cows. Plus, it will give you time to center you attention on this group that can give you more issues at calving. Finally, you need to keep you herd up-to-date on vaccinations and also be ready to make important management decisions. To keep a herd productive, you will may need to do a following up pregnancy evaluation either by blood analysis, palpation or ultrasound by qualified technicians. It is suggested to cull open cows since they will not be make a financial return to the farm. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685.