As cattle producers, you know the older a calf gets the heavier they are at weaning, which translates into a larger paycheck. You are paid by the pound, and calves grow on average 1.5 to 2 pounds per day while nursing the cow. Thus, as we increase the percentage of cows calving at the beginning of the calving season, you can boost the overall profitability of your herd. Research from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has proven that steers born in the first 21 days of the calving season are heavier, and thus more valuable at weaning. In addition, replacement heifers born in the first 21 days of the calving season are heavier at weaning, more likely to reach puberty prior to their first breeding season. Even after 6 calf crops, the early born heifers are more likely to still be productive within your herd, all because they were born within the first 21 days of the calving season. This data alone shows us that tracking calving distribution, or the total number of calves born every 21 days during the calving season, can be a critical indicator of performance for your herd.
Measuring Calving Distribution
If you are tagging calves at birth, you can easily collect birth date data, which allows you to calculate the calving interval for individual animals. This will easily translate into calving distribution data for your herd. If calving dates are not being recorded, the measurement of calving interval on a whole herd basis can be accomplished by counting the number of calves born within a herd every 21 days. This will allow the total number of calves per heat cycle to be tracked.
To measure the calving distribution count the total number of calves born with in your herd every 21 days, and track over the entire length of the calving season.
Managing Calving Distribution
Shifting the number of cows bred in the first, or even second heat cycle of the breeding season can be challenging. One of the best tools to do so is using estrous synchronization protocols. These protocols can be used in conjunction with either Artificial Insemination or natural service (bull breeding). The benefit of using estrous synchronization tools, with or without A.I., is that producers are increasing the total number of females in their herd that are cycling within the first few days of their breeding season.
For more information on calving distribution, or to learn more about how to implement a synchronization program within your herd, please contact Kalyn Waters or your local county agent.