Research has shown that having a defined calving season can produce more profit for farmers and ranchers according to Kyle Stutts, Ph.D., Agricultural Specialist at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.
"Shortening the calving season is one of the most cost-effective management practices that can be implemented by a cow-calf producer," Stutts said. "For some, the first step to shortening the calving season is to establish a defined breeding season. Bulls should not be left with the cows throughout the year; they should work for no more than three months and take a vacation for the next nine to get ready for next year's work."
Stutts explained that uniformity is key to attaining a high price at market, and long calving seasons result in a wide range of calf age and weight at weaning. Calves born early in the season will be heaviest at weaning and have the highest weight per day of age.
"This leads to the conclusion that to increase weaning weights and total pounds of calf weaned, and to increase uniformity in a calf crop, the calving season must be shortened, which is accomplished by shortening the breeding season," Stutts said. "The difference in average weaning weight between a herd with a long calving season and a herd with a short calving season can be substantial."
For example, assume an average birth weight of 80 pounds, an average daily weight gain of two pounds, and all calves weaned on the same day. There is a 62-pound per cow difference in average weaning weight for a 100-cow herd that has a calving season of 60 days compared to a herd calving in 120, Stutts said. This weight difference results in an additional 6,200 pounds - or a 13 percent increase in production - by simply shortening the calving season.
Another advantage of having a short calving season is the increased efficiency in feeding or supplementing the herd, which is the largest production cost of a cow-calf operation.
"Nutrient requirements of the cow change throughout the cow's production cycle," Stutts said. "Cows in a herd with a short calving season can be managed properly as a single group since all of the cows will be in a similar stage of production throughout the year." In contrast, cows in a herd with a long calving season cannot be managed properly as a single group because various stages of production will be represented within that group at a single point in time.
The move to a shorter, controlled breeding season does not have to be accomplished in a year's time. It can be a gradual process achieved over a number of years by progressively shortening the breeding season, removing open cows, and replacing them with females that are bred to calve during or before the start of your calving season.
To develop a strategy to shorten the length of your herd's calving season or for assistance in establishing a controlled calving season, contact a Noble Foundation specialist at 580.224.6500.