4 tips to shorten your calving season4 tips to shorten your calving season
April 14, 2015
The spring calving season is in full swing or drawing to a close for many ranchers, and breeding for the 2016 calf crop will soon be underway. There are many strategies to consider to shorten the calving season, and there are plenty of motivators to decrease the length of the calving interval including: a more uniform calf crop, improved selection of fertility traits in females, heavier culling rates on poor producing cows, and more.
Here are four suggestions to consider to shorten next year’s calving season.
1. Keep it short and sweet through better management.
Instead of “keep it simple, stupid,” producers should think of the acronym K.I.S.S. as, “Keep it short and sweet,” says John F. Grimes, Ohio State University (OSU) beef coordinator.
In a recent OSU Extension Beef Newsletter, Grimes writes, “Research published by researchers at Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M found a positive relationship between number of days of the breeding season and the production cost per hundredweight of calf weaned. They also reported a negative relationship between number of days of the breeding season and pounds of calf weaned per cow per year.”
Photo Credit: Amanda Radke
The majority of cows will get bred within the first 60 days. If leaving the herd bulls with the cows for a longer period of time, pregnancy checking can identify the late-bred cows. Avoid the temptation of keeping those animals, and strive to cull late and open cows.
3. Maintain body condition scores (BCS) in first-calf heifers.
First-calf heifers go through the stress of calving, lactating and raising a calf. It’s important to keep heifers at a BCS of 5-6, says Aerica Bjurstrom, University of Wisconsin Extension ag specialist.
4. Synchronize estrus prior to bull turn out.
Grimes says, “One method to improve reproductive performance of your cow herd is to synchronize estrus prior to bull turn out. Les Anderson, University of Kentucky (UK) Extension beef specialist, says UK studies have demonstrated that treatment of cows with a CIDR device for 7 days before natural service can increase pregnancy rate 5%-15% and can increase the proportion of cows that calve in the first 30 days of the breeding season. The data indicate that the CIDR devices only need to be inserted in cows that are likely to have trouble conceiving early in a breeding season; late-calvers and two-year-old cows. By ‘targeting’ our reproductive management to these cows, one can improve the whole herd performance and limit our input costs.”
How long is your calving season? What challenges do you face in tightening the window for calving? What management strategies have worked best for you over the years? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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