Tag Archives: Ranch Life

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?

White Christmas in Arkansas with the family [Video]

Fun in the SnowI hope you all had a very Merry Christmas this week with lots of food, family, and friends! I traveled home to Arkansas to spend the week with family and ended up seeing a VERY White Christmas. We had about a foot of snow at the house and 6-8 inches of snow with quite a bit of sleet and ice on our farms.

A White Christmas is a pretty big deal here in Arkansas. To put it in perspective, this was only the 4th White Christmas for Little Rock since record keeping began in 1875 and the 8th snowiest month ever with 10.3″ of snow at the official recording site. We were actually under a Blizzard Warning – the 1st ever issued by the National Weather Service in Little Rock. We were pretty excited to see the white stuff start falling even though it cut our day at the grandparents’ house a little short.

I spent Wednesday helping my dad and brother feed cattle. We have several different farms across town so it takes a little while longer to feed everything. It takes even longer when we get one of the trucks stuck in the first pasture then have to push trees out of the way on the road in the holler to one of the pastures. But we made it home by the time the sun set and all of the cattle were fed.


Wordless Wednesday: Sitting with the cows

How about an actual Wordless Wednesday for once? Well, as close as I can get.

I start each Monday this summer in the pasture, taking photos of cows. Yep, it’s true. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Can ya think of a better way to start the week? I sure can’t.

Now if only I can find a way to make it through HumpDays…

Boy, someone gave her a good black eye!
Thistle – Friend or Foe? Find out more here.
Growing corn and a freshly harvested wheat field.
Hey fellas!
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200 Bale Peace of Mind

How is hay season going for everyone? I hope it’s off to a better start than last year’s. We’re praying for rain across the country and watching the long-term forecasts with a cringe.

Thought it would be a good opportunity to share a few words from my minister’s mind during last year’s hay season when drought put everyone in hard drought in Southwest Arkansas.

There’s nothing better than getting the “hay in the barn” – as the saying goes – and a good peace of mind seems to come over ya when things get accomplished. This passage from Philippians 4:7 sums it up well I think.

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

200 Bales Peace of Mind – Explained this to my wife, but the price wasn’t what I was talking about relative to my peace of mind. It was a barn full of hay, and sufficient to say, it will get me through another year (winter). That is short-term peace of mind, and it is my peace of mind for the farm. This is not all we feed, but it is sufficient forage for the calves and horses, since last year’s forage was 40 bales shy of this. However, last year we ran a bit short. You see, my peace of mind began to wane around March/April of this year because we had to buy more hay, and I didn’t want to do that, but such is the nature of this business.

There are abundant lessons to learn about life if you truly live it, and in time, by application so as to be successful and responsible—and of course we are talking about a life viewed from the perspective of God—you will learn your fair share, and wisdom may be yours to own. A wise man endued with knowledge is a valuable asset in life, and I’d like to say I have had great examples to help and aid me in times of need. Their wisdom has helped maintain my peace of mind, and this is most valuable to any one person.

Contentment should be learned in hard work, and herein is great peace of mind.
Image credit: ramracing.com

The Bible says: “Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.” (Ecclesiastes 5:9). There are clear benefits from the land of which mankind was blessed by. There are principles of work untold; life-lessons that man must learn so as to develop both physically and spiritually: “Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.” (Genesis 3:23).

Man must learn wisdom and discretion in work, and this is from the Lord: “Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place? For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.” (Isaiah 28:23-26). Some do not recognize these blessings are from God and show no regard: “For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.” (Hosea 2:8).

There is great wisdom in working hard with balance and godly wisdom: “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.” (Proverbs 27:23ff.)

War is a ravage on the peace of mind, thus doing away with the ability to enjoy hard, toilsome work. Howbeit, because of sin God says this: “I will also break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock; and with thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen; and with thee will I break in pieces captains and rulers.” (Jeremiah 51:23). Peace is favorable: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4). “And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, husbandmen, and they that go forth with flocks.” (Jeremiah 31:24).

Contentment should be learned in hard work, and herein is great peace of mind. However, envy of another’s goods is contrary to this: “Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” (Deuteronomy 5:21). This destroys man’s peace of mind.

I like this passage, and believe the principle of peace and happiness are greatly deduced: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5).

200 bales loaded, hauled, unloaded and stacked in a barn, at this moment in time, on the hottest day of the year was gratifying to this country-boy, and last night I slept like a baby. That was some good peace of mind. However, the greatest peace of mind is found in knowing the message of the cross and applying it on a daily basis. This peace does not pass away, ever! (cf., Philippians 4:7).


Even if hay season seems a little rough, remember there’s always something to be thankful for. Keep the Faith. Be thankful when the hay is in the barn. Read more thoughts from Bryan here.

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