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An easy benchmark to remember for cow-calf producers

I recently read an internet article written by Kris Ringwall from North Dakota State University that appeared on the Drovers Cattle Network, March 30th e-newsletter.  In the article Dr. Ringwall, who oversees the CHAPS beef cow-calf record system with the University, talks about a reproductive measurement that is easy to remember and so critical to defining the profitability of a cow-calf operation.  The number is “60%” and it is the percentage of cows that need to have calved in the first 21 day period of the calving season.  This benchmark was established using cow herds enrolled in the ND Beef Cattle Improvement Associations database and herd records spanning 2009 to 2013. 

Most of us realize that it is difficult sometimes to use one number for such a hard and fast rule.   Especially knowing that we cannot simply justify any and all expenses that we wish to hit the 60% mark, if we are to remain profitable.  But what the years of records have shown is that achieving a profitable herd takes a minimum of 60% of calves born in the first 21 days.  Any less than that and you need to be looking at your herd health, nutrition and/or genetics programs to find out why.

So what are the opportunities for producers when they see that they are higher or lower than the benchmark?  For those that come in with a greater than 60% calving in the 1st 21 days of the calving season you simply need to evaluate the inputs and expenses that got you to this level.  Is the investment worth the reward?  With the prices that calves are worth today and the additional number of days that those calves have to grow and put on weight, the answer may be different than when calves were worth just $1.00 a pound a few years earlier. Providing resources to ensure an early calving herd will pay back much more today than in the past.

The real issue is for those herds where you are not hitting the 60% mark.  You really need to evaluate why you are not able to reach the benchmark.  Are their health or nutrition reasons why your calving is more spread out?  Were there issues with sub-fertile bulls getting cows settled in a timely manner?  Have you stretched your genetics to a point where cows need a higher plane of nutrition than your herd did in earlier years?  Maybe selected for higher milking traits?  Have you cut a few corners on any part of your supplementation program after calving through the breeding season?  As you can see, there may be many areas that you need to investigate before you can find what major factors limit reaching the 60% goal. 

Nutritionally, CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements have a number of products that can make sure you stay on track with minimal input to forage based diets.  CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up® products are specifically designed to make certain that reproductive requirements are met.  These are especially helpful for higher performance purebred herds or operations that focus on estrus synchronization programs using artificial insemination.  As you enter the spring/summer breeding period, a good solid mineral delivery becomes extremely important to make sure you don’t let any cows skip another cycle and leave you short of the 60% benchmark. Uniform intake of CRYSTALYX® mineral products have been research supported to provide supplemental vitamin and mineral intake across the entire herd.

As you look back at your numbers this spring, simply add up the number of cows that calved in the first 3 weeks of the calving season and make sure you are on track for achieving 60% or greater.  It’s easy math, and as Dr. Ringwall suggests, don’t let “excuses” keep you from doing what’s needed to meet the 60% goal.