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Fodder for Thought

Green-Grass Calving Great For Heifers, Too

Padlock Ranch says later calving season makes it cheaper to get heifers bred and improves marketing options.


The Padlock Ranch's change to a late-spring calving season brought about some unexpected benefits for the ranch, particularly with replacement heifers.

The decision was made because of management's desire to graze the cow herd more throughout the year and feed less, says Wayne Fahsholtz, ranch CEO and President.

Typically, replacement heifers bred to calve in January-February require higher quality hay and additional energy feed as cold winter weather requires additional nutrients.

Fahsholts says the ranch found that raising replacement heifers that will calve in May and June allows it to bypass the winter feeding challenges which winter calvers face and to keep the Padlock's cost of developing replacements low.

"When you raise replacement heifers that calve in May-June, they do not have to be bred until July 15," he says. "We can winter them out or limit feed them a low-cost ration and then put them on good grass until breeding."

Now they supplement the heifers with distiller's grains cubes to allow them to gain slowly throughout the winter. Before breeding season arrives the heifers make up for their slow winter gains as forage conditions begin to improve. Fahsholtz says his replacement heifers will gain over 2.3 pounds per day from May 1 to breeding in July using this system.

"Not only do you save on initial heifer costs but that helps keep her depreciation cost down for the rest of her life," he says.

By following this management protocol and only exposing heifers to AI for one cycle, Fahshotlz has been able to develop a system that selects for heifers that are fertile with their more limited inputs.

The Padlock's replacement heifers are chosen from among those which conceive. All others are either sold as bred replacements, or if open, these cattle become stocker cattle which also contribute a profit to the ranch.

"This (management system) carries through as 3- and 4-year-olds (cows)," he says. "Our second- and third-calf cows breed up as well or better than the older cows."

In addition, a higher percentage of cows calve early in the breeding season.

In the end, the Padlock Ranch feels this type of system helps them to develop more efficient cows. Raising heifers in conditions similar to their intended lifelong environment minimizes calving difficulties, enhances longevity in the cow herd and allows them to develop heifers in a cost-effective manner.

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