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What Do I Lose By Calving Early?

Given the Northeast's miserable late winter/early spring weather, some area producers are contemplating later calving seasons. Mike Baker, Cornell University Extension beef cattle specialist, offers

This occurs even though weaning weights are lower in June calving compared to March. March calves are sold in October/November, which typically sees a lower price for feeder calves, compared to calves born in June and sold in January (January, on average has higher feeder calf prices).

  • Another Nebraska study documents no difference (485 lbs. vs. 472 lbs.) in weaning weights or cow productivity for March vs. April calving, if calves are weaned at the same age.

  • Finally, researchers in Montana reported no difference in weaning weight of February vs. April calving if weaned at the same age, but when weaned at 140 vs. 190 days there was a difference (584 lbs. vs. 540 lbs.) of 44 lbs. in weaning weight. They also reported calf mortality of 3.5% in February calving compared to 1.5% in April and June calving. Bottom line, Baker says, it appears there's an advantage to moving the calving season out of late winter to early and mid spring. However, each operation must evaluate its own set of feed, labor and facility resources to determine the best season for their conditions. In addition, calving later means calves will be too light for marketing in the traditional months of October and November.