Tag Archives: calving season

Calving Season – What works for your operation?

calving season

Everyone has a different calving season. Some have none at all. Some folks begin Spring calving in January, others wait until March or even May. Then you have Fall calving season that can begin in September or October. With so much difference, what’s the right answer for everyone? There isn’t one! And if someone tells you they know the calving season everyone should have, feel free to call B.S.

I  grew up on an operation when calving season for 1,200 head of cows ran February 15 to ~April 15th or May 1. By the time we got to the end of April, many of those cows would end up culling themselves as later breeders or open cows. I’ve turned out bulls in early January for Fall calving (for those of you still counting on your fingers, cows have a ~9 month gestation on average, similar to humans). I’ve also worked on operations where it was important that calves be old enough to trail out to mountain grazing pastures by the time forages were growing enough on BLM and USFS allotments.

Managing the breeding season of your cow herd, whether you have 12 or 1,200, is an important part to being able to manage the nutritional needs for your cowherd, managing those feed costs (which can be the majority of annual cow cost), and being able to market your calves or manage the replacements you retain. As simple of a choice as some may want it to be, there is no one-size-fits-all in this situation and I’ve seen a few individuals who wish to be opponents of the “status quo”, be pretty aggressive in their preaching and downcast those who dare to disagree with their opinions.

However, I can tell you that “Because we’ve always done it this way” is not a very well thought out response. Not saying that your current management is wrong, but it does deserve a little more consideration than that.

So what is the right calving season for you?

Where I grew up in Arkansas, it was important to have calves early enough so that cows could be rebred before summer heat and humidity took a huge toll on fertility and successful pregnancy rates. This meant having calves in February and having to deal with a handful of winter weather events during early calving. In Montana, many ranchers need their calves old enough to trail out to summer pastures due to a limited window for grazing season. These producers may also have to consider that grazing areas are far from facilities or access to roads should cows need assistance with calving. Then there are predators like cats, wolves, or bears to consider. You have farmers who have livestock along with crops and often these folks need to wrap up calving season before spring planting. Or you might have folks in areas/situations where weather and forage supply make every bit of sense to wait until May for calving. The point is, every situation is different.

So what are the factors to consider when planning a window for your calving season? Not in any particular order:

  • When is forage available to feed cows at the maximal nutrient requirement period (post calving to peak lactation)?
  • How does the environment influence accessibility of cow herd during calving when/if assistance is needed? How can that be managed?
  • How does calving window influence labor/facility costs?
  • Does weather/nutrient supply influence fertility and ability to have a successful breeding season?
  • When does the calf crop need to be marketed? (Is there an ability to retain and stocker calves to manage this marketing window despite calving season?)

These are just the start of several questions that can be asked when considering the calving season suitable for your operation. What addition questions can you add to this list? What calving season is right for your situation?

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Newborns [Video]

I hope you’re having an awesome Wednesday and that the coffee has warmed you well. I’ve been out in the pastures much of the past week as calving season has launched in a quick start. The calves are loving this crisp, cool weather. Here’s 30 seconds of joy with one. Happy Hump Day!

Day in Farm Life: Central Nebraska

As part of my Day in Farm Life Series, today Bobbi Lorenz from Nebraska shares a bit about her life. Bobbi and her husband Mark are Nebraska ranchers raising cattle, corn, and hay. Be sure to read the entire post. Bobbi does a great job of sharing how tough some days can be while caring for cattle during calving season while trying to balance off-farm jobs to pay the bills. Enjoy her thoughts and be sure to check the end of the post for blog links so you can follow her regular blog posts.
My husband (Mark) and I are 4th (maybe 5th) generation farmers/ranchers.  He is from SE Nebraska where his dad and brother farm and raise cattle.  I am from a ranch in Colorado.  We moved to Central Ne about 5 yrs ago when I took a job working at an ethanol plant as the feed market manager and beef cattle nutrition consultant.  Almost 2 yrs ago we were given an amazing opportunity to purchase part of the land of a local farmer/rancher who was looking to retire and did not have children returning.  We bought a portion of his land, the machinery and leased his cow herd (150 hd).  This partnership is pretty good for both us and him.  He gets some $$ for renting us the summer pasture, some of the farm ground and his portion of the calves.  We get to start our own farm on our own.  We could have stayed in SE Ne with his family and worked into the business, there is room for us but after being out here a few years we like this area better and even though it may be harder financially to start this way it will be ours when we are done.  Because the margins are so tight we both have maintained our off farm jobs.  Mark works for a farmer/rancher 7 miles down the road as well.  So we do most of our farming after dark.
We raise corn, cattle and put up hay for winter.  Our cows calve in the spring (March and April) and are Angus based herd and we use both Angus and SimAngus bulls.  We age and source our steer calves and they are sold direct to a feedlot where we get all of the performance and carcass data back.  Our corn is marketed to the local Ethanol plants.  We sell them corn, they make fuel for our cars (part of ours, most of our equip is diesel) and feed for our cattle.  I guess like most farmers/ranchers I love spring time.  After a long cold snowy winter, the signs of warmer days and new baby calves better make you excited, if not you need a new career!  I think with production ag we go from one season to the next all year round, calving and planting turns to haying and checking windmills, which turns to harvest and weaning, then comes feeding and catching up on the books.  With all of the seasons there is something that I love about all of them there is also some things I could do without (rattle snakes, hail, 20 below zero….).
The consumer… Where do you begin….  My biggest problem with consumers who don’t know is that a lot of them get their info from someone who has never raised a calf, planted a corn seed, or stacked hay.  I wrestle with the issue that so many consumers don’t look to those of us in production ag (farmers, rancher, nutritionist, veterinarians, agronomist) to get the facts on how and why we do what we do to produce the worlds cheapest, safest, and healthiest food supply.  I really wished consumers understood they have instant access to the professionals at the tip of their fingers with today’s technology (blogs, informative web sites etc).
The thing I am most proud of is the sense of accomplishment.  At the end of the day or the beginning of a new day (for us lol) when we walk into the house dog tired I know that we accomplished something.  Even though some days it feels like we chased our tails around in circles we made a difference and what we did put food on someone else’s table.
One cold snowy April Sunday, problems began at 9 am with a heifer not giving it her all to get her calf out and by the time the day was over, we had pulled 3 calves, sewed 1 prolapse, made 9 doses of colostrum, helped 1 confused cow figure out which calf was her’s, on top of the normal feeding and watering chores.  I walked in the house at midnight, soaking wet, covered in “calf slime” and too tired to even eat supper.  I looked at Mark and said glad this terrible day is behind us.  He said “what terrible day?  We have 3 calves that would have died that are alive (2 of which are now mobile and nursing their mom’s), 1 cow that is still alive, 4 more new calves in the pasture alive and healthy, everything has plenty of feed and dry bedding to survive through the night, and the vet was only here once, I’d say that was a pretty good day… oh don’t forget more colostrum while you’re in town tomorrow.”
Bobbi can be found online via her blog and Facebook. Be sure to stop by, drop her a line, and get to know this cattlewoman!
Keep in mind, I’m still looking for guest posts for my Day in Farm Life series. Go here for more details.