Pregnancy check and calf vaccinations for fall 2018 are recorded history. October 25, 2018 held on to become a pretty nice day. Veterinarian was hour and half late, but with the changes i’d made in the corral which made it more user friendly, we still managed to finish before dark. The changes shaved at least an hour off working time.
Results of preg check were far more favorable than i could have ever expected given the very hot, dry, droughty, short grass conditions.
THRILLED with this result even had there not been a drought and i hadn’t changed the breeding season.
Since i was going to Kenya this summer and because i cannot be out past the 15th of August to move the bulls away from the cows (because of severe ragweed allergy), i changed the breeding season from 17 July to 7 July and lopped off 12 days on the end. In other words, last year breeding season was 17 july – 20 September, but this year is 6 July – 19 August. Breeding season went from 65 days to 45 days.
According to gestation tables, this puts the first calves arriving April 14th and the last ones on May 28. I do not like to start calving so early, but since the Corriente cows give such rich milk and combine with heat, humidity, and toxic endophyte fescue of late spring, it was a disaster the two years i calved them out in the mid-May to end of June time frame. (30% calf death loss due to scours despite major treatment). Add in my allergies, i made the decision for my present season. We can get some super nasty weather, however, in April, so time will tell.
Measuring for improvement
*(these two young cows raised the biggest calves – not sustainable for my operation)
Many proclaimed experts, farmers, and ranchers alike are confused about what season it is. ‘Spring’ calving to many means January, February, and a bit into March. NEWS FLASH! – that is NOT spring – that is winter calving in no uncertain terms and terribly hard on livestock and people (in the northern hemisphere) caring for them. Outdoor winter calving, lambing, kidding has been described by bold people as animal abuse!
Now before you think me a ‘Bertha-better-than-you,’ please know that we used to do this very thing! It is the status quo in ranching circles. We’ve been calving in sync with nature now for nearly 20 years and life is much better and profitable for all.
Nitpick your own operation and life – identify elephants in the room – stop digging a hole and solve the problem with simple solutions. The key word here is SIMPLE!
Consider this recent article (from BEEF online) on how to warm up a calf:
Newborn calves that have been exposed to exceedingly cold temperatures may become hypothermic or at least extremely stressed. What’s the quickest method to re-warm them?
Mar 29, 2018
By Donald Stotts
It’s been a winter that no matter where you are, you’d probably like to forget. Some parts of the country are warm and very, very dry. Good for calving, but not a promising start for spring and summer grazing.
Other parts of the country have been cold and wet. And with calving season underway for many, it’s worth reviewing re-warming methods for cold-stress calves, says Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension emeritus animal scientist.
Selk warns that newborn calves that are not found for several hours after birth and have been exposed to exceedingly cold temperatures may become hypothermic or at least extremely stressed. “A review of the scientific data on using a warm water bath to revive cold-stressed newborn calves bears repeating,” he said.
In a Canadian study, animal scientists compared methods of reviving hypothermic or cold-stressed baby calves. Heat production and rectal temperature were measured in 19 newborn calves during hypothermia and recovery when four different means of assistance were provided.
Hypothermia of 86 degrees F rectal temperature was induced by immersion in cold water. Calves were re-warmed in an air environment of 68 degrees to 77 degrees where thermal assistance was provided by added thermal insulation or by supplemental heat from infrared lamps. Other calves were re-warmed by immersion in 100-degree warm water. The normal rectal temperatures before the induction of cold stress were 103 degrees.
“The time required to regain normal body temperature from a rectal temperature of 86 degrees F was longer for calves with added insulation and those exposed to heat lamps than for the calves in the warm water treatments; 90 and 92 minutes versus 59 minutes, respectively,” Selk says.
During recovery, the baby calves re-warmed with the added insulation and heat lamps had to use up more body heat metabolically than the calves re-warmed in warm water. Total heat production during recovery was nearly twice as great for the calves with added insulation and exposed to the heat lamps than for the calves placed in warm water.
“This type of body heat production leaves calves with less energy to maintain body temperature when returned to a cold environment,” Selk says.
By immersion of hypothermic calves in warm water, the study indicated that normal body temperature was regained most rapidly and with minimal metabolic effort.
“When immersing cold-stressed baby calves, do not forget to support the head above the water to avoid drowning the calf that you are trying to save,” Selk says. “Also make certain that they have been thoroughly dried before being returned to the cold weather and their mothers.”
Stotts is a communication specialist at Oklahoma State University
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
Value of 2 year old
Pasture Year 1
Pasture Year 2
2nd calf conception
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.
Just finished pregnancy checking a few cows, including my recip (recipient) cows. Remember that 10 cows were implanted with Aberdeen-Angus embryos on the 24th and 25th of September. The verdict: of the ten, six are bred! That is 60%! Which is so exciting. It sounds like a low percentage, but consider that these embryos were collected and frozen in Scotland on 17 March 2015, then shipped frozen in August to Los Angeles, passed through customs, then on to GENEX in Billings, Montana continuing to Trans-Ova in Chillicothe, MO. Then thawed and implanted. That’s a LOT of room for error.
These cows are scheduled to calve about 25 June 2016. A lot can happen between now and then and even at calving and during the calf’s growing years. So the risk continues.
Suffice it to say, i may have the most colourful recip cows in the county!
Fought severe allergy after coming in at 1am this morning. It’s really, really bad out there; the wind seems to be keeping it stirred. Took two Benadryl (so far Zyrtec had been holding, but no longer). Finally, got to sleep about 3am.
Alarm off at 6:30 – i accidentally hit the snooze, but thank goodness, because i didn’t get up! Up and out by 6:45am. Couple of heat detector patches are turned blue, which means heats in the wee hours. I wrote down the numbers. Still concerned about the lack of activity.
Set up a poly wire and posts to give them more grazing allotment.
It was SO good to see June smile again! She had been very self-conscious about her smile because her front teeth were missing (they had broken some weeks earlier). Now with her new partial in place, she is free to relax, smile, and be herself. What a blessing.
Checked the cows – one more in standing heat.
High allergy again with so much wind and heat (87F feels like 93), so i cannot spend long outside before staggering back into the a/c for a couple of hours. I sure don’t like to hurry the time, but that first frost is always such a relief.
Mostly rested today, signed some paperwork for an EQIP NRCS conservation programme, scanned, and e-mailed the copies back. Checking the cows every two hours, transplanted three potted mums into the front landscaping, snapped and froze two gallons of green beans, hooked onto the little stock trailer and pulled it up to the seed plant – not sure how it ended up at our house, but that happens, and doing my daily exercises. Oh, yes, and i took a much needed nap!
Last heat check at 8pm, then get ready for bed. Grab some shut-eye, the up for check about 1am.
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!.
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.
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.
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.
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.