Why We Calf 1-2 Months Later Than Our Neighbors
Many ranchers and farmers all over the world like to put their bulls in with their momma cows for a set number of days, a set time of the year. The time of year differs for each operation based on a series of factors. Such as the weather, market prices for certain times of the year, and convenience for the rancher. Some ranchers will run bulls year around with their cows, but that can cause problems with selling. The buyers of commercial calves like them to all be the same size. So, there is a lot that goes into what might seem like a simple decision.
Calving season for us is just about to begin. For many of our neighbors though, calving season is soon coming to an end. This might seem strange to some, but we have decided to calf more in tune with nature. By having an April start date, we can avoid most, if not all extreme cold weather. Also, we will have the cows out on nutritious green grass when they are lactating, which is when they need the best nutrition. This also allows us to feed less hay and supplements throughout the winter because dry cows need less feed.
The downside to our calving, is the breeding season. A little fun fact, a cow’s gestation is the same as humans, around 280 days. So, for our calves to arrive in April we must breed them in the hot season. This is a problem because heat can cause stress, and cows will not become pregnant when stressed. Also, bull’s semen has less swimmers when it is extremely hot.
One way to counter this is to make sure the cows are in an area that has shade and plenty of cool water to lessen the stress on the cow and bull. Also, we are working to select genetics that are less stressed by extreme heat and will fit into our program.
This all can seem overly complicated, and it is easy to get lost in “maybes” because there is no controlling the weather. What works for one rancher may not work for another. The only way to find what will work for an operation is to try different things when what you are trying is not working. That is where we were and why we switched things up.
This will be our first year calving this late, so I will keep y’all updated with how it goes! I do not think there is any one right answer or any perfect season. I do think it is important to be willing to think outside the box and not simply do what everyone else does.