Vet’s Voice: Bred females needed in herd annually for profitability
December 29, 2014
Hopefully you all were profitable in your cow-calf operations in 2014. It is a great resolution for 2015 to continue to remain profitable. The national cow herd numbers are at twenty year lows and your herd has a percentage of cows which must be culled yearly. This means to maintain or increase your herd numbers you must add pregnant females to your herd.
There are several ways to increase your cow herd:
Purchase pregnant heifers. Many individuals believe bred heifers are too expensive at roughly $3,000. When you examine the marketplace bred heifers cost less than two fat heifers and slightly more than two cull cows. With the increase in prices the $3,000 bred heifer is feasible. Many of the purebred sales have bred heifers averaging $5,000. If you purchase bred heifers, be sure to purchase them several months before calving. This will allow them to acclimate to diseases in your herd and develop good immunity to vaccinations after purchase.
Save your own herd replacements or purchase open heifers. In some areas open cows and heiferettes are purchased and bred. This practice is not allowed in South Dakota because of Trich regulations. These open females may be carriers and spread the disease to your herd as well as others.
Heifer development in the past taught us to shoot for 65 percent of mature body weight at breeding time. Recent results from University of Nebraska indicate you can develop heifers to 51 percent – 58 percent of mature body weight and still achieve acceptable pregnancy rates. If your cows average 1,400 pounds, your heifers need to weigh 900 pounds in the 65 percent scenario and 700-800 in the second scenario. The most important development practice to assure high pregnancy rates is gaining weight at breeding or as she goes to grass.
Heifer selection is up to you as manager. Most select the older heifers, believing they are more fertile and will calf earlier. Use your calf book and select females from the better females. DNA testing has recently become available to all producers. This allows you to understand the genetic potential of your females. You are able to multiply the top half of your herd. The second portion of this testing allows you to carefully select from similarly tested bulls allowing maximum genetic progress. This is a real change from selecting the animals which look the best in your eyes to selecting animals with the most genetic potential. Technology improving efficiency.
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Purchasing bred cows. In our area we call these "flip cows." Most are purchased early and fed. After sufficient weight gain they may to re-sold as pregnant. Many are calved. Some of these are kept in the feedlot until August and the cows are sold and the calves are weaned. These animals never are rebred. Some purchase these flip cows and add them to their herd. They need to be vaccinated to match your cows and hopefully you can keep them separate from your foundation herd. These are usually short term cows, but many purchase young cows for herd additions.
Leasing cows. Cow leasing has been around for many years. With current prices 65-35 seems to be the average. Be sure you have a written contract so there are a no questions at the time of settlement in one year.
The cow-calf industry is at a great time profitability speaking. There are several ways you can increase your herd thereby increasing your profit potential. Consult with your extension specialist, nutritionalist or veterinarian and devise a program which increases your profit potential while minimizing health issues in your herd. Have a happy and prosperous 2015.