Farm Management Minute: Around and Around We Go
March 11, 2016
Many ranchers are in the full swing of calving. They have spent nine months preparing their mother cows to deliver profit in 2016. These calves are the result of nine months of effort and planning on the rancher's part and it is always rewarding to get a healthy newborn calf on the ground.
The gestation period of a cow is nine months or, on average, 285 days. There is a lot of background work to be done before a cow ever gets bred. This can include pre-breeding vaccinations that are usually given three weeks prior to breeding. During this time the ranchers must also focus on the nutrition of the cows, which could include a mineral program high in phosphorus and quality roughage that meets her needs to support herself and the new calf at her side. We also need to make sure that the cows go onto grass free from internal and external parasites. There are multiple different methods of parasite control, including pour-on, injectable, or oral (in their feed).
In addition to getting the cow ready to breed, producers have many decisions to make when deciding what bull genetics to use for next year's calf crop. There are almost unlimited choices when choosing a herd sire. Producers can choose to keep bulls, use artificial insemination, or a combination of both. Most producers will spend a considerable amount of time researching sires to complement their cow herds to help ensure a profitable calf crop.
Once the cows are processed, the bulls chosen, and the calves branded, it is time to turn everybody out on pasture and sit back to wait for the big calf check in the fall, right? Probably not. If you raise your own hay, there is a summer full of irrigating, cutting, raking, baling and equipment maintenance to organize. In between all this field work, producers are usually kept busy with rotating pasture, giving mineral, treating sick calves or fixing fence.
After about 45 days with the cows, it is time to pull the bulls out. This gives a short window of calving next spring, which in return gives you a more even set of calves to sell in the fall. Also, pulling the bulls out provides a more natural selection of culling the cows who don't breed back. Summer work continues, and it is a good time to think ahead and get the weaning yards cleaned out and ready for fall.
When late summer arrives, it is time to start planning for pre-weaning shots. This will vary, depending on the operation and when they wean calves. The normal protocol recommended by a vet is to have pre-weaning shots in the calves before weaning and then give the calves another booster at the time of weaning. Usually, calves will be given pre-weaning vaccinations, then turned back out with their cows until weaning time.
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September and October are typically the months to wean calves, haul them to the sale barn or return them back to the ranch. During this time some ranchers will pregnancy test the cows and maybe treat them again for external and internal parasites. This usually starts the daily chores of feeding calves that continue through the rest of the fall and winter. This is also when many producers are harvesting grains or silage, or hauling hay bales back to the yards to store for the winter.
With winter comes daily feeding, keeping water open, and starting to plan for calving season…right back where we started this process last year.
It is truly a year-long process of hard work and crucial decisions that cumulate to produce a calf crop. If we are smart, we are always looking for ways to make our operation more productive and therefore more profitable. Ranchers and producers involved in agriculture understand the process. Some days are harder than others, and there are days when we question what we do, but watching a healthy new born calf buck and jump across the pasture helps make the work easier.
If you would like more information on year-round record keeping for your operation, contact David Koupal at David.Koupal@mitchelltech.edu or call 1-800-MTI-1969.