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West: Evaluating decisions in the post-calving season

Matthew Garcia for Progressive Cattle Published on 25 July 2019

Evaluating how management decisions the year prior have affected performance at specific production time points can yield valuable information for producers.

Specifically, an evaluation post-calving and pre-breeding can yield valuable information about your management decisions. This time point is particularly valuable because what a producer is observing during calving season and breeding season is the effect of their decisions almost a year prior. As such, there are a couple of valuable observations a producer can make during this time in order to critically evaluate their decisions and potentially make beneficial changes going forward.

1. The first piece of information that should be evaluated is calf survivability and cow mothering ability. For example, how many cows calved unassisted? How many calves had to be pulled, and what was the reason for the pull? How many calves were lost to unknown death or a documented illness/accident event? Answering these questions gives you some insight on how your selected calving season, bull selection, mineral program and nutrient program may have influenced your calving season.

Answering these questions allows us to examine if our previous year’s selected bulls’ birthweight EPDs were compatible with our herd, if our cows’ mineral program is transferring benefit to our calves, if our nutrition program is compatible with our cows’ needs at calving and if our selected calving season is optimal with our production goals and resources.

2. The second piece of information that should be evaluated is cow performance. This information is highly valuable, as a cow’s performance during calving season is strongly correlated to many months prior to calving. For example, a cow’s performance during calving and breeding season is also correlated to its body condition many months prior and directly before calving and breeding.

This allows a producer to evaluate if his or her cow’s body condition was optimal prior to calving season and how well that cow maintained body condition prior to breeding season. If cows are too thin prior to breeding season, maybe we are selecting cows and replacements that have energy requirements too high for our resource capabilities, or maybe we are not providing them the proper resources to do their job.

To summarize, there are a number of factors that influence cow and calf performance. However, it is very important to remember all stages of the beef production system are correlated, and decisions at one stage will influence performance at another. Critically evaluating each stage and how our decisions affected performance allows us to change our strategies well in advance to avoid seeing those issues next year at the same stage of production.  end mark

Matthew Garcia
  • Matthew Garcia

  • Beef Cattle Specialist
  • Utah State University
  • Email Matthew Garcia

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