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Later Calving: Winner Or Loser?

Later Calving: Winner Or Loser?
On the Northern Plains, March-April is the traditional calving time, but new numbers from NDSU indicate May-June calving might be worth considering.

Do you give up too much by calving beef cows on the Northern Plains in May and June instead of the traditional March-April period?

Maybe not, according to what the North Dakota State University Dickinson Research Extension Center has documented.

Two years ago, it changed its calving date from March/April to May/June. This year, it began calving May 10.

It has a 91% pregnancy rate for the two years of May/June calving, while the typical rate for March/April calves in North Dakota is 94%, according to CHAPS data.

Ninety-four percent of its cows calved within the first 21 days of the calving season, while 63% is typical.

Later Calving: Winner Or Loser?

The center's calf death loss is 3.2%, which is very close to the 3.3% that is typical.

The center's weaning percentage is 89%, compared with the typical 91% weaning percentage.

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The center's calves were weaned off at 171 days of age, while the typical average is 190 days. The center's steer calves averaged 563 pounds at weaning, while the typical weight is 571 pounds. The heifer calves averaged 498 pounds at weaning, while the typical weight is 545 pounds.

In total, the average weight gain per day of age was 3.1 pounds, compared with a typical 3 pounds of gain. The average calf weight was 532 pounds at weaning, compared with a typical 558 pounds.

The CHAPS herds weaned an average of 499 pounds of calf per cow exposed, compared with the center's average of 473 pounds of calf per cow exposed.

None of the DREC calves were exposed to snow until fall.

"Most of the May/June calving numbers are a little lower than March/April, but it is not enough to at least consider the advantages of May/June calving," says Kris Ringwall, DREC director and beef specialist. "There are opportunities to make up the difference in other ways and there are lot of labor advantages to May/June calving."

One of the major pluses for May/June calving is that the cows breed back so much easier.

"March/April calving has been a good system for the Northern Plains," Ringwall says, "but May/June calving is viable, too."

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