Improve your profits by lowering open rates in first calf heifers

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers.

Young cows are investments. And like investments in a stock portfolio, they need to be monitored and their management needs to be periodically adjusted if they’re going provide you with your desired return.

While the average cost of raising a bred heifer in 2018 was $1,840, the most expensive (or valuable, depending on your perspective) cow in the herd is the one that has just had her first calf, because she hasn’t had a chance to recoup any of that investment through the sale of her calf yet. You’re hoping she has a second calf, and a third, and many more to pay for and profit from that investment, but first she has to breed back for the second time.

Continue reading

Unintended Consequences

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

I once spent a summer working for canola breeders. Some used traditional selection, while others were experimenting with transgenics. One traditionalist was known to say “sticking a new gene into a plant and expecting it to grow better is like throwing a new gear into a watch and expecting it to keep better time. It’ll probably get worse”. This article isn’t about canola or genetics, but it is about time and unintended consequences. Specifically, it’s about the timing of the breeding and calving seasons.

Canada’s cow-calf sector has moved towards fewer, larger beef cow herds. Calving later, on pasture has been a widely adopted strategy allowing producers to expand their cow herds without a proportional increase in equipment, labor, and facilities. When John Basarab led Alberta’s Cow-Calf Audits in the late 1980’s and late 90’s, breeding often started in May and calving started in late February. In contrast, 70% of the producers responding to the 2017 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey started breeding in June or July to calve in March or April.

Continue reading

Economics of Preg-checking: a 2017 Update

The major economic benefit of preg-checking is the cost-saving of wintering open cows. However, it has been noted that preg-checking is not always worthwhile, as the increased revenue due to higher prices in the spring and the additional weights put on in the winter could more than offset winter feeding costs.



The economics of preg-checking depends on the cull cow market price, the management system employed by the producer, feed and overhead costs, and veterinary costs. As market dynamics change every year, it is important to consider the current market situation when making preg-checking decisions.

Alberta cow prices experienced an impressive rally in the first half of 2017 but the seasonal decline has been sharp since Continue reading

Are those girls in good shape? Raise your beef IQ


beef_cattle_fact6_body_condition_reproduction_2017 600x600 web

The productivity, and by association profitability, of a beef cow largely depends on the amount of fat that she carries. Cows with a body condition score of 3.0 have higher pregnancy rates, heavier and healthier calves, and re-breed sooner than cows with lower body condition scores. They also typically have fewer calving difficulties and increased milk production compared to cows with high body condition scores.

Cows in ideal condition are not only more likely to get bred, they’ll rebreed up to 30 days sooner than thin cows, which means more calves on the ground in the first 21 day cycle. This can add up to 42 extra pounds of weaning weight to these earlier born calves.

Eyeballing body condition is often not accurate, so hands-on scoring is recommended.  Feel for fat cover at the short ribs, spine, hooks and pins and either side of the tail head.

By scoring cows around the calving season, you’ll be able to identify animals with a BCS lower than 3.0 and work to get their condition back up before breeding. Scoring when it’s convenient throughout the year will help you identify which animals are maintaining, gaining or losing condition (despite their deceptive hair coat!) and manage them accordingly.

To calculate the difference between the value of weaned calf crops from cows maintained at different body condition scores, visit:  http://www.beefresearch.ca/research/body-condition-scoring.cfm

Click here to subscribe to the BCRC Blog and receive email notifications when new content is posted.

The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

Managing pregnant cows for improved cow and calf performance: Webinar October 18

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

Management of pregnant cows has a major effect on calf performance, cow performance, and the ability to of cows to rebreed. Register for this webinar to hear tips on managing cows during this critical time period.

When


100_4601
Thursday, October 18th at 7:00 pm MT

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB and SK
  • 8:00pm in MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI 

Watching on a tablet or mobile device?

If you plan to join the webinar using your tablet or mobile device, you will need to Continue reading

5 articles for cow-calf producers heading into fall

With Fall around the corner, it’s a good time to (re)consider a few production practices. These 5 articles are full of ideas, scientific evidence, producer testimonials and interactive calculators. By taking a closer look at their options and potential, you may discover more ways to benefit your herd and bottom line.

Feed cows, not worms

Picture1
Managing internal parasites
Internal parasites can be much more detrimental to your bottom line than you may realize. Effective parasite control can have a greater economic impact on cow calf operations than many other management procedures. To learn more about the options for internal parasite control and how to prevent resistance to dewormers:

  1. Visit www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/internal-parasites-50, and
  2. Register for our upcoming webinar on managing internal parasites: www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

Reduce sickness and sell more pounds
Preconditioning


By spreading out the stressors that normally occur at weaning (change in diet, vaccination, transport, etc.), calves gain more weight per dollar. Does that mean
net profits for cow-calf producers? See for yourself
by Continue reading

The economics of pregnancy testing: Webinar September 15th

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

Join this free webinar to better understand the economics of choosing to pregnancy check and whether it is more profitable for your operation to cull cows in the fall or spring.

When

Pain control in beef calves. Photo supplied by Tamara Carter

Thursday, September 15 at 7:00 pm MT

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB and SK
  • 8:00pm in MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI 

Watching on a tablet or mobile device?

If you plan to join the webinar using  Continue reading

Try this new calculator to determine when it pays to preg-check

According to the 2015 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey, 60% of producers include pregnancy detection as part of their management strategy. That’s up from 49% nearly two decades ago, according to the 1997/98 Alberta Cow-Calf Survey results, and up from 34% reported by the 1987-89 Alberta survey.

But the question remains as to why 40% of producers in Western Canada choose not to preg-check their cows.

Assuming a spring calving schedule, generally producers have three options for
managing open Continue reading

The High Cost of Shortchanging Cows



This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Last month’s column talked about how cold, snowy winters increase the energy needs of cows, especially when wintered on pasture, and how cows will use their body fat reserves to maintain themselves if the feed doesn’t provide enough energy. Reproductive performance will drop if thin cows don’t recover their body condition.

A 2013 paper published by the Cheryl Waldner and Alvaro García Guerra of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon reported on a two-year study of over 30,000 beef cows from more than 200 herds across Western Canada (Theriogenology 79:1083-1094). Cows were Continue reading

Molecular factors influencing maintenance energy requirements in mature beef cows



Feed costs represent a significant input cost in the cow-calf sector. The majority of the feed energy needed by the cow is used to meet the animal’s ‘maintenance requirements’. During pregnancy, cows may be able to reprioritize their energy use, which allows the cow to use less energy to maintain herself, and divert more towards the growing calf.

Better understanding maintenance requirements and energy metabolism in the mature cow may lead to the development of management and nutritional approaches that improve feed efficiency of cows.

Continue reading