Many are either in the midst or soon to be in the middle of spring calving. Hopefully your cows have been well prepared for the changes that face cows entering lactation. While it can sometimes be a mindless exercise in repeating the same things year after year, there are a couple of changes that may have taken place within your herd that has crept up on you over the years and negatively impacted reproductive performance and overall profitability.
There have been bouts of cold weather episodes this winter ranging from short, tolerable conditions to extreme almost unbearable extended cold with little relief. We still have several months where temperatures can influence cow herd condition and it is extremely important to successfully manage through them, especially for spring calving cow herds.
This is a topic that I have tried on several occasions to write about but thought that it might be too ambiguous in terms of what could possibly be written that would seem valuable enough or intriguing enough to be read by cow-calf producers. What has kept this topic simmering on the backburner have been observations not only at work but also with my kids at home.
Many of us have seen daily news and social media updates regarding the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In particular, those of us in the ag community have an interest in both livestock and companion animals that have been impacted by the flooding. There has been daily coverage of livestock being moved out of flooded areas, desperate to find higher ground. For those who are familiar with Gulf Coast grazing lands and the endless acres of low-lying, boggy, marshy pastures, we understand the challenges associated with their efforts. The recovery ahead will take not only a few days or weeks, but many months and perhaps even more.
Sustainable is an expressive term that has gained momentum when describing desired food production systems. It attempts to pull together all facets of what goes into food production and provide guidance to what is good for consumers, producers profitability, environment, livestock in the case of meat animal production, employees and communities. No small task when you consider these different parts of the food system. You can probably see without too much difficulty, that a priority in one area, could easily have a conflicting or negative effect in another area.
No one likes to hear the “D” word and I don’t mean Dallas or even Divorce. We all know it as Drought! Many parts of the US don’t have to worry about drought now as moisture conditions this spring have been very generous. That is fortunate for many cattle producers as much of the pasture production as well as forages for hay crops, are greatly impacted by spring moisture conditions. Unfortunately, there is one area that has been dealing with Spring weather conditions that have been getting drier and drier. That is the Upper Plains States.
Does this beast even exist in North America today? Short answer is certainly yes, but there are far fewer today than there were over the last 30 to 40 years. I remember watching a number of bred female sales out in Western North Dakota in the 80’s. It was very common to see females fit into this 1000 and 1050 mature cow weight. Bigger cows back then moved up to the 1100 or even 1200 pound mark. Those are days that are long gone as our genetics and selection pressures have changed. And with it cows that have increased in size.
The fly season has started in the southern US and will soon be working its way north as temperatures begin to warm up. There are several reasons why proper fly control can help increase your cow-calf returns primarily by impacting final calf weights. This can be a result of several factors like improved health, less energy expended on non-productive activities, cattle behavior, etc. More on these in a minute. The new VFD Veterinary Feed Directive may change how cattle producers had been typically supplementing their cattle on grass. This makes fly control this summer even more critical to manage.
Replacement heifers are your future cow herd and contribute yearly to the advancement of your genetics along with a significant impact on profitability. Genetics, nutritional development, health programs and breeding management will ultimately define your cow herd. Get them right and they will provide you years of successful returns to your cow-calf operation.