Calving season is in full swing at our place, and the recent blast of winter weather has made welcoming new calves to the ranch a little more labor intensive than we would prefer.
Cows close to their due dates must be penned in the barn each night. Night checks are a necessity to ensure no new babies are born outside in the extreme temperatures. Close attention must be paid to ears on these brutally cold days, and we run through plenty of diesel fuel keeping our heaters in the barn humming.
Despite the challenges, we much prefer calving in the winter weather compared to the spring when things start thawing and we have to contend with the mud that follows.
Yet, no matter the weather or the time you decide to set your calving window, there are pros and cons. And the one factor that truly determines the success or failure of your calving season is the gestating and nursing cow.
There are many questions ranchers can ask of their cows to assess how well they are working in the herd.
Does she breed back consistently year after year? Does she carry her calf to term? Is she easily able to deliver the calf without assistance? Is she smart enough to pick a dry, safe spot to labor?
Does she come into milk quickly? How is her udder? Are her teats the appropriate size for ease of nursing? Does she allow her calf to suck?
How about disposition? Is she docile but maternal? Can you weigh and tag the calf without worrying about your safety? Does she nurture her calf by licking it off once it’s born?
Looking at performance, does she wean a calf that weighs over 50% of her body weight? Does she maintain her body condition through nursing and the summer grazing season? Are her calves sound in structure, attractive in design, easy to handle and contenders for the “keep pen?”
If she has EPDs, is she good on paper? Does she shine in traits that are most important to you and your herd goals?
As we ask these tough questions of our females, it’s a reminder that our cattle are employees of the ranch. If they don’t do their job, they cannot be profitable for your operation. As you select your replacement heifers, which priorities are you focusing on? What makes a keeper vs. a cull?
This month, we are celebrating the “Next Generation Females” of the ranch with a photo contest sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim. We are seeking photographs of your best cows on the ranch, and there is still time to enter the contest!
To enter this contest, simply email a photo, caption and your name and mailing address to BEEF Daily Editor Amanda Radke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be accepting entries from now until 8 a.m. CST on Feb. 27.
Finalists will be selected and announced on Feb. 28.
Voting will commence and be open until March 11, and we need your help in selecting our champions!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.