Different concepts for growing cattle numbers
The nice weather this weekend sure makes us think about spring. In fact, many of the herds in our area have moved back to winter pasture and stalks. The cow slaughter numbers are still high with very good prices and the fat cattle are at record highs. We have seen losses in our cow herd numbers over the past few with no real expansion. It appears in 2014 the numbers of heifers entering herds will be up, but slaughter numbers will increase and negate any expansion. Last year we all saw pasture being broken for row crops. We need to increase our cow herd numbers to improve the profitability of our farms and ranches.
The most common means of increasing herd size is by adding heifers. In the past we were taught the breeding heifer needed to be at 65 percent of mature weight at breeding. Recent research in Nebraska has illustrated that heifers at 55 percent of their mature weight also are reproductively efficient. These animals do need to be gaining weight and in good condition at breeding time. This new program will allow the use of more roughage and residue in the preparatory period. These animals were 38-40 pounds lighter at breeding, and saved $70 plus in development costs for very similar breeding percentages.
Research at Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) found no significant difference in the ovarian development of both types of heifers, but the low cost developed heifers had lower conception rates when exposed to the bull in the first 21 days of the breeding season. This highlights the point that synchronized artificial insemination is very important in your heifer development program. We all understand that the early born calf is heavier at weaning and the heifer is more likely to rebreed, thereby maintaining her position in the cow herd. Another important concept is to breed extra heifers to assure enough bred animals early in your season. The extra heifers which are open or late bred can be marketed in the early fall as yearlings, which will enter the feeding channels. These animals have been worth good dollars the past few years.
George Seidel, PhD, from Colorado State University has proposed a new type of cow herd for more efficient usage of pasture and feed. His concept is simple, but quite different from traditional herds. The herd is made up of only heifers. The heifers would be A.I. bred with sexed semen so they produce only heifers. Then calving ease clean up bulls would be turned out to complete the breeding season. The heifers would be calved and sent to pasture. No bulls would be turned out with the pairs and the calves would be early weaned. At weaning, the unbred heifers would all be sent to the feedlot to enter the meat channels. These girls would only calf once and be gone. This will minimize the feed needed to winter cows as you are wintering (developing) your heifers for next year. We all believe we can run 1 ½ heifers on grass for each cow.
The system is designed for raising meat and not herd improvement. No heifer calves would be marketed, but 25-30 percent additional heifers may be needed yearly to maintain herd numbers as a result of bull calves from clean up bulls and non bred animals. The advantages are rapid turnover and no old cows eating feed and decreasing in production. The heiferette market has been good the past few years and there seems to be very little penalty for the older animals.
The world is demanding high quality beef and our cow herds have been decreasing over the last few years. There is opportunity for profit in the cow-calf industry. Visit with your nutritionalist, veterinarian or extension specialist and decide if you can modify your production systems to improve your ranches’ output by improved management or addition of more animals. This will help assure your future in the cow-calf industry. F