Calving Season

Ag Biz News Column
Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent—Ag/NR
Smith County


Calving Season

There is no single date that is best for the start of calving season.  Farmers and ranchers must decide on which works best for their operation.   The start of calving season will dictate the start of your breeding season.

Several factors should be considered when selecting a calving season for your herd.  These factors are the costs of production, animal performance, income, and profitability.  Fertility and nutrition both play important roles in this process.  Fertility among cows is variable.  Body condition going into breeding season is important as pregnancy rates are highest in cattle showing signs of estrus early in the breeding season.

When deciding on your calving or breeding season, some questions needs to be asked.  Do you want a fall born or a spring born calf?  When do you plan to market your calves?    Will I manage grown cows separate from first calf heifers?  Do I have the resources to separate various age and various production level cows on my operation?

The cow will determine the genetic make-up of one or two calves per year.  The bull, however, can determine the genetic make-up of multiple calves in a breeding season.  Producers are purchasing replacement females for their herds as many sold cattle due to the 2011 drought.   Are you looking for bred heifers or open heifers?  A decision must be made on how these heifers will fit into a current herd rotation.

The farm manager needs to know when to assist with difficult calving situations.  Dystocia is a scientific word used to describe a difficult delivery in the birthing process.  Assisting with difficult calving occurs most frequently in first calf heifers.  On average dystocia occurs 50 percent of the time in first calf heifers and 25 percent of the time in second calf cows.  This may require some assistance from the farm hands or in some instances calling the local veterinarian.   Calving season requires the manager to spend extra time out in the field with the cattle.

Nutrition requirements for lactating cows with calves at their sides will be different than open or bred cows.  This may require separating cattle of various production levels to feed them differently to meet higher nutrient requirements.   This is especially the case with first calf heifers.  When first calf heifers are together with grown cows, the grown cows may keep them pushed away from feed bunks or hay feeding areas.

Beef cattle require energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins in their diets.  The amount of nutrients required depends on body size, environmental conditions, how far an animal travels, the desired rate of gain, stage of gestation, and level of milk production.  Growing heifers cannot consume as much forage as mature cows.  A forage analysis can be an important tool for the farm manager to determine supplementation requirements for your winter feeding program.  This can help you determine if you need to supplement protein or energy to meet the cows needs especially when these cattle have calves at their side.

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