Managing a calving and breeding season without removing bulls

By: Dr. Bruce Carpenter & Dr. Thomas Hairgrove

For those that don’t have a place to put bulls, a calving season of three months or less can still be maintained – as long as the age of the fetus is determined and any cows are culled that didn’t make the breeding window. Photo by David Cooper.

“A cow should have a calf every year.” For most cow-calf producers this is a true statement because the cow costs the same amount of money to keep – whether or not it raises and weans a calf to sell.

Based on the most recent Texas A&M AgriLife Standardized Performance Analysis (SPA) database, it costs the average Texas producer $796 to keep a mature cow around for a year. Of course, not everyone is “average.” The lowest-cost-quartile producers only spent $618 per cow per year, while the highest-quartile producers spent $1,261 per cow per year.

If you break down where those costs occur, most people would probably correctly guess feed and labor are among the biggest components. But it surprises many people depreciation is actually slightly larger. Collectively, depreciation, feed and labor account for 46 percent of the total annual cow cost for most producers.

The benefits

Controlled calving seasons have a number of benefits that include improved herd fertility, heavier weaning weights and more uniform calf crops. Uniformity may offer more marketing options and, when age variability is minimized, replacement heifers can be better managed to reach a timely puberty for that critical first breeding. Also, herd health programs are easier to implement and monitor in herds with a defined breeding season.

For example, programs to control calf scours, pneumonia and other calfhood diseases are easier to implement in similar age groups of cattle. Sexually transmitted diseases such as vibrio or trichomoniasis can be recognized and dealt with before they become chronic in the herd. Timely testing for reproductive diseases such as BVD are easier to manage in a herd with a controlled breeding season.

Most vaccines, and especially those for reproductive diseases, require they be administered at specific ages or at a specific time in relation to when breeding is expected to begin, and a defined calving season allows more options such as strategic use of modified live/killed vaccines. Managing herd nutrition is another area that should be considered: When cattle are supplemented, the whole herd gets fed. It is impossible to accurately deliver supplement to dry cows and lactating cows when they are together in the same pasture. Nutrient requirements are most affected by lactation, and especially peak lactation, which occurs about two months after calving.

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Via source Progressive Cattleman | Managing a calving and breeding season without removing bulls

For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Kaitlyn Harkin at or (979) 845-1542.

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