There are many interconnected variables that affect, or are affected by, calving season. Considerations such as infrastructure and facilities to remove and house bulls following a defined breeding season, herd size, regional market prices, targeted weaning time and labour availability are a few factors that impact a calving period.
These producers did their homework and planned ahead before shifting their calving seasons in order to meet the needs of their particular farms and families.
Spencer Yeo, Nova Scotia – Shorten Calving Period from Twelve to Six Weeks
Six years ago, Spencer Yeo who now farms in Nova Scotia had a large calving window, with the bull in year-round. About 60% of his herd calved during a 12-week timeframe but there were always stragglers which meant a lot of extra nights checking cows. Yeo had a small herd and was selling calves direct from the farmyard. With a mix of weights and smaller calves pulling the average price down, he saw an opportunity for change.
“If you’re going to adjust your calving window, you need to make sure your cows are in good shape to do it successfully.” – Spencer Yeo, Nova Scotia
Yeo aimed to transition to a six-week calving period to help with time management as he also works off-farm full-time. He chose to aim for February calving because it is typically a little warmer then, in his region. It is also a time of year when he has the most free-time, and it was when the majority of his cows were already calving so he was working with the herd versus against them.
The transition occurred within a single year with the breeding season shortened to May 1 through mid-June. Preg checking occurred in August, and any open females were sold. This worked well as cull cow prices were seasonally higher in August versus later in the fall, which resulted in extra income. Bull management includes the option of leasing out for a few months or selling after the breeding season. Yeo replaces the bull every two years, so only has to deal with a bull in the off-season every other year. Continue reading →
For many cow-calf producers, calving season is a favourite time of year. After waiting 283 days, farmers are finally able to see the result of their breeding decisions as well as welcome a new crop of animals that will likely become a large portion of their annual revenue.
Just as every farm operates with an independent set of circumstances, and every farmer is unique themselves, calving season is going to look different on every operation. There is no one right method or time of year to calve a cow herd.
There are many interconnected variables that affect – or are affected – by calving season. Length and timing of breeding season, bull power, grazing and feed resources, target weaning time, marketing windows and methods, heifer development, mortgage payment deadlines, herd size, available labour, infrastructure, and tradition are a few different factors that play an important part in calving.
Looking at survey data over the past thirty years, there has been a trend, at least in western Canada, with producers transitioning from late winter/early spring calving in February and March, to later calving in April, May or June. Whether producers are thinking about making a shift in timing, or simply reassessing their decision to calve when they do, they should think about the risks and rewards of timing their most critical phase in cow-calf operations. What are the advantages or disadvantages of keeping the same season? What are the greatest challenges during calving on my farm and how can I manage them? What are the benefits of my existing calving season, and what are the drawbacks? How much labour do I need and how much do I have to get the job done?
The following producers have done their homework and planned ahead before shifting their seasons back or ahead in order to meet the needs of their particular farms and families. Continue reading →