Tag Archives: replacement heifers

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
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
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%
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.




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)




CIDRs In, CIDRs Out, then AI

Big ranch outfits often do timed AI, but we’ve never done this, so quite the experiment for us.  There is a lot of time and cattle handling involved which translates, of course, to more labor costs.  Time will tell if all this is really worth it.  We have hired a professional AI technicial to insert the CIDRS and do the AI (artificial insemination).

18 August – Mustered the cows and replacements heifers for CIDR placement to begin at 7am along with a Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) vaccination.  Doug, the technician had a flat tire so was running about 30 minutes late.  Not a problem.  The cows sorted nicely and went through the chute with no problems.  We managed a pace of 67 cows per hour for a total of 3 1/2 hours from start of CIDR insertion to being finished.  Sorting of course, was started an hour earlier.  Weather was perfectly cloudy, cool, with rain starting after we finished!.

Allen was catching, Pat gave the shot, Doug AI'd with RIck preparing the straw and loading the AI gun. This was crucial in expediting the whole process.
Allen was catching, Pat gave the shot, Doug AI’d with RIck preparing the straw and loading the AI gun. This was crucial in expediting the whole process.  Dallas brought the cows quietly into the race.  I was sorting the cows from the calves (well, except for taking this photo!)

25 August – Mustered the cows and replacements heifers in again at 4:30 removal of the CIDRS in the cows which also received the lutalyse shot\.  Sorted off the replacement heifers and held in corral overnight.  A little warm starting here in the afternoon, but not too bad.  about 82F, but began to cool off quickly.  We were finished by 7:30p.

26 August – Removal of CIDRS in heifers at 7am. Also received a shot of lutalyse. Had a couple of calves to doctor, then let the whole mob down into the timber.

27 August – 6pm – went to muster the cows into the small lot by corral.  RIck had already unrolled 4 bales of good hay, but the cows had found their way out of the timber.  Took until 7:30 to get them in!  Note to self:  Leave the cows in the small lot with high quality hay rather than turning them out and having difficulty getting them back in.  My thoughts are that they are really tired of getting poked and prodded, so were quite reluctant to move back towards the corral and with all the hormones raging at this point, they are pretty distracted.

Doug Tenhouse, our AI technician is inserting the AI syring through the cervix and plunging the semen into the uterus.
Doug Tenhouse, our AI technician is inserting the AI syringe through the cervix and plunging the semen into the uterus.  This cow was being less than cooperative – normally, they stand up – there is no pain.

We finished about 12;30 pm and had AI’d 210 animals in five hours.  If I get 55% of the cows bred to Red Eddard, that’d be industry standard.  As expensive as this whole process is, I hope for better – only time will tell. The cows have all been inseminated with Red Eddard, a red Aberdeen Angus that was collected at Cogent and has been sold by Dunlouise Angus to another farmer.

AI 006
Four straws of Red Eddard were left over since there were a few cows that, for various reason, didn’t warrant the investment of being inseminated with expensive semen. These were put in Pat’s semen tank where we found we also had leftover Black Angus and Charolais semen from when we used to AI some 20 years ago. Maybe we’ll get it all used next year.

28 August – morning start at 7am with the cows; the heifers were held until last so that the timing is right for best chance of successful AI and conception for each group.  Cows should be AI’d 60-66 hours after CIDR removal and heifers about 54-60 hours.  Both receiving a second Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) shot.  A bit late getting started.  Cows were, not surprisingly, reluctant to go into the corral, but at last they made it.  We started about 7:30 am again.  Everything went very well today, however, and we finished about 12:30pm.

Potential recip (recipient) cows. If all goes as hoped, 10 of these will become proud surrogate mommas of native Aberdeen Angus calves.
Potential recip (recipient) cows. If all goes as hoped, 10 of these will become proud surrogate mommas of native Aberdeen Angus calves.

I made my final selection of cows to use for embryo transplant work

and only ended up with 17 for 10 embryos.  Hopefully, enough cows will be in standing heat this coming week and none fall out for other reasons, so that each of 10 embryos will have a new home inside a momma’s womb.  AND remain viable.

ET cows were hauled home and now I spend time each day, all day checking for standing heat and writing down the time and the cow’s ear tag number.  All cows will be hauled to Trans-Ova in Chillicothe, MO on the 4th of September for ET.  HOPE, HOPE, HOPE i get some live calves out of those embryos.  It’s SO expensive.

Dallas and I dewormed the sheep in the late afternoon – had just done it 20 days ago, but sheep were dying!  I found out that the previous owner of these sheep had already put his own flock on an 18 day deworming schedule.  Add this to the growing list of reasons why i’m selling off the sheep – more work, more expense, more loss.

Shabbat Shalom!


Red Eddard - a native born Scottish Aberdeen Angus bred by Dunlouise Angus, Kingston Farms, Forfar, Angus County, Scotland
Red Eddard – a native born Scottish Aberdeen Angus bred by Dunlouise Angus, Kingston Farms, Forfar, Angus County, Scotland