Shorten The Breeding Season To Increase Calf Value

This may be the summer to finally do something about that long breeding and calving season in your cow herd.  Shortening the breeding season should still result in a high percentage of cows bred and identify those that are difficult to get bred so they may be removed from the herd next fall.  If forage and hay supplies are short, culling the late-calvers will be an aid in the long term efficiency of the herd.  Early weaning (at about 6 to 8 months of age) can also help some late calving cows rebreed earlier than if they continue to nurse a calf.  Shortening the breeding and calving seasons will pay off in heavier, and more uniform groups of calves to sell at weaning time.  If a cow operation can market a sizeable number of calves together in one lot, they will realize a greater price per pound (on the average) than similar calves sold in singles or small lots.  Proof of this concept is presented here in data from the Oklahoma Quality Beef Network sales in 2010.

A premium for uniform, multiple head lots is generally attributed to the convenience of filling orders for cattle of a specified description on the part of an order buyer.  Also, larger, uniform lots may indicate a single point of origin for the cattle leading to less stress and fewer health problems as may be associated with pens of “put- together” cattle.  Small cow/calf operations can take advantage of these price differentials only by achieving 2 month (or shorter) breeding seasons so that the calves are born in a short period of time and are of similar age and weight at sale time.   This stresses the need for cows in good body condition at calving and fertile bulls used only in short breeding seasons.

Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

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