Tag Archives: bulls

Compare 2-Year-Olds to 3-Year-Olds

Conventional wisdom from cattle management experts as well as those in the Ag University system insists that to properly develop future cows for a profitable cow herd young females (replacement heifers) need to calve by the time they are 2 years old.  The main idea is to identify those females which are the most fertile and to select for early maturation.  But is that really the way to do so?  And is early maturity a desirable trait?  Consider that most producers (in cattle) are expecting those young females to give birth by what is a comparable human age of 14, gestate, and raise a baby every year thereafter.  Whereas, the 3 year old compares to 18.  Animal Age Calculator

There is also the ‘belief’ (because i’ve never seen any data to support this) that a cow calving as a 2 year old raises one more calf in her lifetime than the older heifers.  I cannot speak to this with my own data since i’ve not been at it long enough to gather data, but i also don’t plan to do the research and have another herd that calves as 2 year olds.  However, I’ve spoken with a few producers who have been doing this for a long time and they are just as convinced that allowing their heifers to be physically mature before calving them allows them to live longer and more productive lives.

My heifers are not exposed to a bull until they are at least 2 years old – actually most are born in May of a year and not exposed until mid-July two years later, so they are actually 2 years and 2 months old and they will calve when they are right at 3 years old the following May.

Outside the obvious lifestyle benefits for producer/rancher and the comfort and animal welfare of the livestock, I’ve put together some financial figures which will apply to my ranch and indicate to me that I’ve made the right decision for my operation.

 

Heifer Development Costs
2 year old 3 year old
Value of Weaned Calf  $    630.00 450 lbs  $      1.40
Value of 2 year old  $    810.00 600 lbs  $      1.35
Hay
Pasture Year 1  $    125.00  $    125.00
Pasture Year 2  $    125.00
Salt/Mineral  $        3.00  $         6.00
Breeding Fees
Veterinarian Fees  $        5.00  $         5.00
Supplies
Labor
Interest
Insurance
Taxes
Depreciation
Machinery
Bulls  $      40.00  $      40.00  per head
Costs  $    153.00  $    281.00
Total Cost  $    803.00  $ 1,111.00
Conception Rate 70% 96%
$1147.14  $ 1157.29
*PPI 70 50 days
Calving Assistance 18% 0%
2nd calf conception 70% 96%
Advantages:
Manage growing, breeding, gestating, calving heifers as one mob with cows
Older Heifers are physically and mentally mature with no special feed requirements
Observing older cows calving seems to teach the heifers what to do
Less than 1 % calf death loss
Calves at least 50 lbs heavier at weaning and can be weaned with the cows’ calves
No special treatment

*PPI – post partum interval – the number of days it takes for the female to recover from calving and becoming pregnant again.

The calving assistance and pregnancy rates are taken from various University research data over decades of record keeping.  Most research heifers are developed with considerable grain and feed inputs which incurs more costs including labor.  However, my comparisons are grass and forage only.  Therefore it is likely that the grass managed 2 year olds could be significantly higher open (not bred) percentages than what is illustrated here.  Whereas the 3 year old development percentages are actual from my ranch.  My grass managed 2 year olds were only 10% bred!  Ouch!

WOTB – Working on the Business – tweaking the plan to discover a bit more opportunity for profitability in ranching.  Margins are too thin for my hobby level of ranching, but trying to do my best.

Cheers!

tauna

heifersIMG-3631

IMG-3629
The red heifer in the middle with the black ear tag is a coming 3 year old expecting her first calf while the two red heifers to the left of her are long yearlings (about 1 1/2 years old) and will be exposed to the bull in mid-July.  The black cow to the right is much older – as you can see the coming three year old exhibits nearly the same maturity.

IMG-3631 (1)

 

 

 

Sell Now or Sell Later

There has always been great debate about whether or not to sell open (not pregnant) cows in the fall at pregnancy check or turn the bull back in with them and see if they’ll breed for another season, then sell them pregnant.  Many trade publications will encourage producers to ‘add value’ to a cull cow, but i seriously question the validity of such endeavor, but then again, i’m not an expert with numbers, i’m just lazy and don’t want to be shifting and handling and sorting my cows more than necessary.

It’s easy enough to simply put numbers to the various practices, then make your favourite decision.

My first stumbling block with the concept of adding value to one of my cull cows has to do with passing off a potentially problem cow to my neighbor.  That doesn’t sound very neighborly or make good business since.  However, one could simply ‘add value’ by pouring the feed to the cow to make her fat and increasing the grade or value for slaughter.  It also could be justified by the fact that my management is super low input and most of my cows would thrive in another producer’s management style.

Let’s compare:

Pregnancy check in the fall reveals 10 open cows.  My cows all have a calf at side or they’d already be sold, so 14-30 days after the calves have received their vaccines, I’ll wean the calf by selling off the cow to slaughter.  She’s not going to be in the fattest condition because she’s nursing a nice calf and a non-fat cow will not bring top dollar.

For example, the different cow classes are as follows:

SLAUGHTER COWS:

  1. Breaking and Boning (75-85% lean) $47.50-$57.50
  2. High dressing $58.00-$67.00.
  3. Lean (85-90%) $44.00-$54.50

Cows in the fall nursing a calf will typically fall in the Lean or Breaking and Boning categories and this year are bringing about $43/cwt (hundredweight).  My cows are primarily Corriente or Corriente cross and will weigh about 800 lbs (by comparison and Angus or other beefier breed will weigh 1200 lbs, although she still may be thin and be in the same category).

 

OR

Keep the cow and turn the bull back with her and hope she gets bred – Let’s say there is 70% chance that she will.  So, we keep the cow until she is in the 2nd stage of pregnancy or about 5-6 months along.

Therefore, if she would bring $875/head as a P2 cow (and this would be a stretch if she is older than 5 or 6).

OR

Leave the bulls in with the cows an additional 20-30 days and hope that another 50% of the potentially open cows actually breed, then sell the bred cows that calved late as well as the open cows in mid-December.

Let’s compare:

10 $105 -$1,050 labor
10 $127 -$1,270 pasture costs
7 $875 $6,125 bred cows sold
3 $400 $1,200 open cows sold
$5,005  keep and sell in June
vs
5 $360 $1,800 open cows sold
5 $675 $3,375 bred cows sold
$5,175  sell in December
($170)

Things to consider.Interestingly, in my opinion, these numbers probably won’t change even if one leaves the bulls in for another 20 days, sort out the cows that have not calved by 10 June and selling them as ready to calve in the last trimester (P3).  In this part of the country (Missouri, USA) a summer calving P3 cow is not as desirable as a fall calving P2 even though i’ve credited her with more value in my chart above.

Leaving the bulls in an additional 20 days is advantage for me in that i avoid having to handle the cattle during ragweed allergy season.  My allergies are so bad, that this is a serious consideration.  However, the reality of bringing in the cows with baby calves and sorting off the one which haven’t calved yet is that it likely won’t happen and one would be right back to a 65 day calving season.  However, those cow numbers could be written down, paired up in the fall and then sold as pairs when animals are mustered in for preg check and calf vaccinations.

The point of changing the time and reducing the length of breeding season was to avoid ragweed allergy season.  However, i discovered that at least this year, i was unable to withstand the debilitating effects of ragweed as late as 1 September.   Also, the longer the calving season, the more inconvenient it is to shift the animals through a managed rotation.

Other alternative is to separate those open cows and a bull put in with them.  Disadvantage is that a separate herd must be maintained for 7 months.  Not really a feasible situation.

So, now that i’ve thought through the pros and cons of the various scenarios, especially solving the issue with allergies i will plan to leave the bulls in an additional 20 days, thereby hauling them out about 20 September.  This means, however, that the following spring that i’ll be dealing with an additional 20 days of baby calves to shift (yes, this is a pain in the butt) and be diligent to write down the numbers of those cows calving late so they can be sorted off during preg check in November.    If half of those late calvers go ahead and get bred, it will add dollars to my bottom line without adding much expense.  Most importantly, it solves the allergy issue.

WOTB – (working on the business)

Cheers

tauna

 

 

Rodeo Way.

I never thought about this, but it’s true!!!

livehumblyandhavefaith

rodeo


Stands filling up, quickly. The ‘pump up’ music playing. A bronc starts dancing in the chute. Fresh arena dirt and fresh livestock. 

The excitement is felt, seen and heard. An electricity that is circulating throughout the stock, contestants, and spectators. And then, the announcer begins to speak…

He doesn’t begin by giving the statistics of the riders, or rant about the stock contractors, no. The announcer begins with “This is the home of the free and the land of the brave and because of that we want to honor those who give up their freedom so we can enjoy ours. Every Marine, Sailor, Airman, First responder, please stand up.” Some slower than others, stand. Stand in remembrance of their fellow men and women, stand in remembrance of the commitment they made to this country. Stand to be honored. And as each one stands up, the electricity of the building, changes, ever so slightly, as…

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Mild Monday

Another stunningly beautiful weather day here.  Just a touch of frost on the windshields and crunchy grass early this morning.

Woke up about 4am since i’d fallen asleep so early the evening before, but with a horrible headache. photo download 007 Took some Tylenol, fixed some mate, then opened the door to let Thunder in and along with him a bird flew in!  Weird.  So a little early morning excitement – Allen and i finally coaxed it out by turning off all the lights in the house and turning on the porch light.  Birds are not like bats, they have to see where they are going.

Almost out!
Almost out!

My main project for today was to load up those little calves i talked about earlier and the thin bull and take them to market.  Now we don’t have those baby calf feeding chores which frees up about 45 minutes a day! Not to mention just the inconvenience of being tied to this task twice a day. Most of that time is taken up with preparing the bottles and feeding the bottle calves.   There is also no more feed costs.

Next big project was to prepare another 16 foot cattle panel into a circle which is what we use in south Missouri for decorative and useful end posts for fence.  Once these are filled with rocks (and there are plenty of those on my farm there!) then they are set to go.  Beautiful and functional at once.  It is hard work to fill up them up, however.

photo download 001Dallas put the second coat of linseed oil/mineral spirits on his lawn tractor trailer yesterday and took out a couple bales of hay for my cows up north.  He also moved several more bales from the neighbour’s farm.  We bought the rest of his hay bales just recently and while it’s dry, we are moving them off his farm as quickly as possible.

This afternoon and early evening will be spent at the Forage Systems Research Center‘s 50th anniversary with guest speaker, Dr Fred Martz, professor emeritus and former FSRC superintendent.  It’ll be nice getting to visit with friends we haven’t seen for some time.

Cheers!

tauna

Trying to rain…..

One of the negative aspects (and i’m NOT complaining) is that with this unexpected warm weather, vacuuming or sweeping dead face flies and Japanese beetles off the floor around windows and sills etc is a daily event.

Each morning and evening, I have 5 orphaned peewee calves to feed along with two orphaned bottle calves.  A nuisance to be sure.  Once they are started good and I have time, I’ll take them to the auction before winter.  Someone else will like the chores more than we do.

Last night, after dark, Dallas, Allen, and I mustered 12 calves from the TT place across the road to their mums who Allen had moved earlier in the day.  He should have checked them before dark!  We were able to move all but one blind calf.  She’ll be up waiting today.

These two dead trees were too close to the electric powerlines.
These two dead trees were too close to the electric powerlines.

The electric company guys came yesterday whilst I was gone and cut down these two dead trees from near the power lines.  I had only called them about a week ago and here they are so quickly.  I was glad they were willing to do this dangerous job for us.

Thanks guys at Farmer’s Electric Coop, Chillicothe, MO!

I like this birdhouse the best because i messed it up - it's just slightly askew, so we'll keep it for ourselves.
I like this birdhouse the best because i messed it up – it’s just slightly askew, so we’ll keep it for ourselves.

Need to get back to these birdhouses I cut out from an old barn gate using a pattern for bluebird house from the Missouri Department of Conservation.  Boy, repurposing lumber is a challenging undertaking, but it is rewarding to keep this lumber from just burning.  Still need to screw on the tops and cut out the hole.  I’ll leave the decorating to Dallas – he’s more creative than I am.  We have a lot of small antique farm junk to use.   Not sure what we’ll do with so many birdhouses – maybe Dallas and I can hone our skills enough to make something worth selling.   I lined these up today – does that count for doing something?!  😉

Birdhouses that are made from an old barn gate. I have discovered that using repurposed lumber is a time consuming endeavour!
Birdhouses that are made from an old barn gate. I have discovered that using repurposed lumber is a time consuming endeavour!

Rolled up about 875 feet of polywire and picked up the posts, giving my ET cows and some late calving heifers of Allen’s another break of fresh grass.

Managed to squeeze in a bit of time to take this ancient bird feeder apart and take out the plexiglass that was there which i used to take to the seed plant to cut another one.  As you see one side is missing. Using the table saw, I quickly sliced a piece to put in on the other side.
Managed to squeeze in a bit of time to take this ancient bird feeder apart and take out the plexiglass that was there which i used to take to the seed plant to cut another one.  As you see one side is missing. Using the table saw, I quickly sliced a piece to put in on the other side.
Carefully disassembling.
Carefully disassembling.
All put back together with it's new plexiglass.
All put back together with it’s new plexiglass.

Lunch was such a hit yesterday with beef fillets and broccoli, that I made the same today.  Which was quick and easy since I had sliced the whole loin yesterday morning when it was still somewhat frozen.  Being partially frozen, meat is much easier to slice.  These fillets I sliced about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Pan broiled in butter from grass fed cows is our favourite way of preparing beef fillets and lamb noisettes.

Since it may rain tomorrow and i need to go to Chillicothe, I headed to my farm to shift the cows.  That sure made them happy.  I opened another paddock as well since I can’t get back up there until Tuesday.  Took out mineral and drove the perimeter to make sure the fence was all cattle tight.  Finished my fencing project at my farm this afternoon  with driving another 10 or so fiberglass posts and attaching the two hi-tensile wires with cotter pins.  I’ll be feeling that tonight – I can see some Tylenol in  my future – the ground is really hard right now.  Tightened it all up – done.

The guys are nearly done with building my perimeter fence.  They finished today’s plans in the rain.  It was not a full day of working since Allen took his dad to the doctor this afternoon.  If the weather holds, probably tomorrow will see it done.

Upon my return home, i found the peewee calves in the yard waiting for me!  Guess i accidentally left a gate open.  So glad the bulls hadn’t wandered up to the barn and out as well!  Got some feed and they followed me back to the barn easily.  One of the bottle calves is not feeling well  – i noticed her not being up to par this morning and she is worse this evening, so i pushed her into a corner and shot her with Red mix and a vitamin B complex.  Hopefully, that will knock whatever rattles out of her.  She has a good appetite, though, so that is a good sign.  She and the other calf sucked down their bottles in good fashion.

Enough chatter for today!!

Cheers

tauna

Nearly dark, Allen and Dallas pulled in.  Dallas collected eggs and we all sauntered back to the house, enjoying the lovely evening.

Now, a long evening before bedtime – maybe i can talk these two into playing a few games of UNO.  We are all tired, but it just gets dark so early.

Heifers and Mature Bulls

This advice goes for all animals species, not just cattle!  Our personal experience is that we prefer to breed those virgin heifers at 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years of age.  Breeding them to calve as 2-year-olds is comparable to a girl giving birth at 14-15.  Breeding and calving later can reduce calving difficulties by allowing the youngster to fully mature.  Even though conventional wisdom says it’s not profitable to miss out on that first calf and that by selecting for early calves, you are selecting also for early maturing, is sound business.  However, there are some ranchers who feel they more than pick up on the other end with their cows producing until they are 14-15, rather than dropping out of the herd at 10-11.  So, right or wrong, we don’t necessarily ‘develop’ the heifers, we simply let them grow up with the mature cows and become sensible, healthy, and productive females.

Here is another thought from Burke Teichert, a man whom I’ve yet to meet, who has words of wisdom and experience worth pondering taken from his column “Strategic Planning for the Ranch” in Beef magazine.

Don’t overdevelop replacement heifers.

“It will cost you money in several ways.  If some don’t breed, take heart in the fact that the “good ones” did.  At first breeding, 55% of expected mature cow weight is adequate in most situations, as opposed to the 65% that’s long been recommended.”

Don’t take better care of bulls than they should need.

” Since a bull doesn’t need to gestate or lactate, if he requires exceptional care, do you really want his daughters to become your cows?”

Burke Teichert, a consultant on strategic planning for ranches, retired in 2010 as vice president and general manager of AgReserves Inc.  He resides in Orem, Utah.  Contact him at burketei@comcast.com

First Week Home

Taking a bit to get our days and nights sorted but almost there.  I’m still feeling weird about driving on the right hand side of the road, although it feels normal – I still find myself thinking a moment before pulling onto the highway.  However, if I don’t think, turning into the proper lane comes naturally.  Hmmmm.  I think – therefore I’m confused.

Lots of catching up on the farm – fences to repair, batteries to charge, water tanks and lines to drain and cap off in preparation for winter.  It’s been wonderful weather for these activities.  Have had trouble with some corner posts, so am replacing them with traditionally set hedge posts.  The ground is not hard, so this job only took me about 45 minutes!

Using post hole jobbers to dig a 2 foot deep hole.  A spade helps get the job started as well as keeping the sides and bottom loosened
Using post hole jobbers to dig a 2 foot deep hole. A spade helps get the job started as well as keeping the sides and bottom loosened.
Post is installed, then all the dirt I took out is then tamped in and around the post.  This will leave several inches at the top for concrete.
Post is installed, then all the dirt I took out is then tamped in and around the post. This will leave several inches at the top for concrete.
All tamped in and hi-tensile wires wrapped around.  I haven't tightened the wires yet - will let the post 'set' for several days before putting any strain on it.
All tamped in and hi-tensile wires wrapped around. I haven’t tightened the wires yet – will let the post ‘set’ for several days before putting any strain on it.

I was able to sort off my five bulls from the cows and walk them a quarter mile to the corral for loading out.  They’ll spend the next 10 months hanging out with their bull peers.  What a life – work (not sure a bull would consider what he does as ‘work’) for two months, then just hang out for ten.

The boys and Allen are tearing out and building a new quarter mile of perimeter barbed wire fence at the Oertwig farm.  He and Christian had already hauled the bulls from all his cows earlier this month as well as rebuilding all the washed out water gaps from the flooding we had the day before the boys and I left for Scotland.

Sadly, my allergy symptoms began within 36 hours of our return – itchy eyes, scratchy throat, sneezing, itchy face and neck, congestion.  Dallas and I went to Columbia to the allergist and had our oral drops made and we started the treatment.  It will be at least 6 months before there is any change so in the meantime we may have to take some antihistamines.  The plan is that we’ll be symptom free next year!