Changing the Calving Season: Different Answers to the Same Question

– Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

The onslaught of a wet, cold winter, several blizzards, and unbelievable flooding has caused some Midwest cattle producers to re-examine the timing of future calving seasons. There will be popular press and social media articles suggesting that calving seasons need to be moved to late spring and early summer. For those regions of the country prone to late winter, spring snowstorms and blizzards, moving the calving season out of these stressful weather events makes sense.

If the calving season is moved to May and June, then the breeding season must be moved to August and September. In the upper Midwest, breeding seasons in the hotter months of summer may be feasible. Although, 90 to 100 degree days may occur, nighttime temperatures will often cool to 70 degrees or lower. However in Oklahoma and Texas, in August daytime temperatures often reach near or above triple digits and night time lows may only cool about 80 degrees. A high pressure heat dome may lock in very hot days and warm nights for an extended period of time. The number of hours each day that the temperature is above the thermal neutral maximum (80 degrees in the bovine) is sizeable. There is little if any opportunity for the cow to dissipate heat in this scenario. Therefore heat stress becomes a biological nemesis to good reproductive performance in late summer months in Oklahoma.

Research conducted several years ago at Oklahoma State University (Biggers, et al, 1986 OSU Animal Science Research Report) illustrated the possible impact of heat stress of beef cows on their reproductive capability. They found that Continue reading

Beef AG NEWS: Developing a Mating System for Beef Cattle

With more than 70 recognized beef cattle breeds in the U.S. it can be difficult to decide exactly which breed or combination of breeds work best in any given situation. In this broadcast, John Grimes and Duane Rigsby discuss considerations for choosing the beef breed or breeds that can best accomplish the breeding and marketing goals of the individual cattleman.

Beef AG NEWS: Tools for Genetic Improvement in Beef Cattle

In this broadcast of the Beef AG NEWS, John Grimes and Duane Rigsby discuss how EPDs, genomics, genomic enhanced EPDs and selection indexes can be utilized for the selection of individual animals that best fit the criteria for your beef herd mating system.

I Normally Like Ribs . . .

– Dr. Les Anderson, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

Jeff, Darrh, and I were chatting the other day and, amazingly, we all agreed on something! Over our many miles of travel this winter/spring, we have seen more ribs on cows that any of us can remember. The wet, cold winter and poor hay quality has really stressed cows and if we don’t watch out, it will impact rebreeding.

A successful breeding season begins with nutritional management decisions made prior to calving but most spring-calving herds are past that now. “Ribs” are best maintained over the winter during the two trimesters of pregnancy. Visible ribs are one component of body condition score. Body condition score (BCS) is a numerical estimation of the amount of fat on the cow’s body. It ranges from 1-9; with 1 being emaciated and 9 extremely obese. A change in a single BCS (i.e. a 4 to a 5) is usually associated with about a 75 pound change in body weight. Evaluation of BCS prior to calving and from calving to breeding is important to ensure Continue reading

Calving: How and when to intervene

Stan Smith, Fairfield County PA, OSU Extension

With calving season progressing across Ohio, one question that is often asked is when, if and how should one intervene to help with the birthing process?

During a portion of his presentation during the 2019 Ohio Beef School, Dr. Justin Kieffer discussed intervention in the birthing process, and how to properly pull a calf. Find that portion of Dr. Kieffer’s presentation below.

Spring Breeding on Fescue Pastures

– Dr. Roy Burris, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

Most Kentucky beef producers have spring-calving cow herds that graze fescue pastures which have high endophyte levels. Getting a high percentage of cows bred in May, June, and July to calve in March, April, and May can be a challenge. I personally prefer fall-calving for that reason, but I also believe that we can have successful breeding performance in the spring.

There are some keys to getting a high percentage of cows pregnant for a spring calving season. The most general problem, in my opinion, is that the winter feeding program isn’t adequate to support required body condition for early rebreeding. Cows should enter the breeding season in good body condition (Body Condition Score 5) which doesn’t always follow our winter feeding programs. It seems that we sometimes try to “rough ‘em” through the winter and hope that spring grass will “straighten them out”. That is a sure formula for delayed breeding or open cows. Spring-calving cows need to conceive early in the breeding season (before late June) for best results. We conducted a trial at the UKREC (Western Kentucky) several years ago in which similar cows were separated into three breeding periods of 45-days each on high-endophyte fescue – see Table 1. Cows which were exposed to bulls from June 19 to August 4 had a pregnancy rate of only Continue reading

Time for Some “Defensive Driving”

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

The term “defensive driving” may seem like an odd choice of words to start an article about beef cattle. Stay with me on this one. When I think about defensive driving, I think about watching out for factors such as the surrounding traffic, weather conditions, time of day, driver fatigue, etc. and how they may affect your ability to travel safely from point A to point B. How does this concept relate to beef cattle production?

As we are in the midst of changing both weather and production seasons, now is the time to be analyzing your animals and the environmental conditions around them to make important management decisions that can impact your operation for the short- and long-term. Most of you are painfully aware that the beef herd has faced many challenges through the winter of 2018-2019. As we move into spring with green grass and warmer temperatures, do not get lulled into a false sense of security that any problems that we have been experiencing are going to magically disappear.

We fully realize the current situation. We have experienced months of cold, wet conditions that have resulted in excessive amounts of mud. Unless you have had a laboratory analysis of the forages fed your herd through the winter, we have to assume that forage quality of hay supplies is sub-par. Excessive moisture in the spring and early summer of 2018 simply did not allow for the timely harvest of forages to generate high quality feed. Based on my observations and conversations I have had with producers, veterinarians, and other industry representatives, the weather and feed quality has resulted in large numbers of Continue reading

Consider Economics of Spring vs. Fall Calving Season

– Jason Bradley, Agricultural Economics Consultant, Noble Foundation

Have you ever stopped and thought about the reasons why you manage your cattle herd the way you do? Can you justify your calving season?

You could calve in the spring and market calves in the fall. Or maybe you calve in the fall and market in the spring. Perhaps you have a continuous calving season throughout the year.

What to Consider When Choosing a Calving Season

I’m not going to try to convince you that you should be using one calving season over another.

There are endless things to consider when you are looking at how and when to market your yearling cattle, including Continue reading

It’s Time to Get Serious About Reproduction and Genetics

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator (originally published in the Expo 2019 issue of The Ohio Cattleman)

The first quarter of any calendar year is an important time for most commercial cow-calf producers. If it has not started already, calving season will begin soon. Shortly after the onset of calving season, decisions must be made in regards to breeding season. Management choices in the areas of reproduction and genetics made during this timeframe can certainly influence a cow-calf operation for years to come.

Regardless of whether you use a natural service sire or artificial insemination in your breeding program, there is little justification for a lengthy breeding season. A 60-day breeding season is an ideal goal to shoot for and I would recommend nothing longer than 90 days. If you are currently involved in a longer breeding season, there are valid economic and management reasons to make a change. It requires a little discipline, some rigid culling, and a willingness to use technology and other resources available.

Nearly every management decision associated with the cowherd is simplified with a shorter calving season. Herd health, nutritional, and reproductive management are Continue reading

Reproduction Benchmark Goals

– Dr. Andrew Griffith, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Tennessee

The Tennessee Forage and Grassland Council meeting that was conducted in Jackson this week turned out to be a very informative meeting with good discussion. There were several questions asked with several related to reproduction. Many times, producers do not know if they are hitting the mark with pregnancy rates, calving rates and weaning rates because they only have their information in which to compare.

As a benchmark, cow-calf producers should be shooting for at least a 95 percent pregnancy rate, a 94 per-cent calving rate, and a 90 percent weaning rate. These reproduction benchmarks are a good mark to shoot for in the near term. After meeting these benchmarks, producers should be trying to exceed these points if it is not costing an exorbitant amount in dollars and labor. A few practices that will help achieve these benchmarks include a short defined calving sea-son, pregnancy evaluation shortly after the breeding season, and a strict culling regiment.