I walked across some pastures on the last day of November and shook my head as water splashed up from my gum boots and splattered my pants. I was honestly hoping that this winter wouldn’t be anything like last year, but so far it is. Ugh, I’m afraid that mud is coming. Fall forage growth.
Shortly after I joined the NRCS about twelve years ago, a retired NRCS Grazing Specialist by the name of Steve Hibinger was assigned to me to “show me the ropes.” One of the things he taught me about grazing in Ohio thas stuck with me all this time. If I could teach it to every…
When you put a lot of time, energy, and money into your farms or homesteading lifestyle, you need to protect all of that effort and expense with the best farm fencing and gate hardware. In the end, strength matters, but stronger does not necessarily equal better if you take other factors into account. Farm’s profit […]
First Step to Raising Cattle, Lamb or Chicken is Growing Grass From small farms to larger farming and cattle operations, improving pastures has become the focus for many farmers Nationwide. Growing healthy lush pasture grass has become more important than ever before. Thus, small farm operations and homesteaders Nationwide have been leaning more towards permaculture […]
Farm Gates – Security for Your Homestead Whether you’re a cattle farmer or a homesteader, your first line of defense and security for your property is a farm gate. Depending on how you are set up on your farm or homestead, you may require multiple farm gates to get the best all-around protection for your […]
Prorate your hay based on both the nutrient content of bales and the health status of gestating cows using these tips. This week, I traveled to Idaho to speak at the Idaho Cattlemen’s Association Winter Meeting. It was my first trip to Sun Valley, and the ski resort town was anxiously awaiting the arrival of […]
This week’s snowy weather has reminded cow-calf producers that winter hay feeding has begun or will begin shortly. Estimating forage usage by cows is an important part of the task of calculating winter feed needs. Hay or standing forage intake must be estimated in order to make the calculations. Forage quality will be a determining factor […]
Easy to install and shockingly versatile, a solar electric fence will give you the power to keep your animals in the pasture, even if you’re off the grid. Electric fencing can be installed with basic hand tools and no prior fencing experience. And by adding a solar-powered fence energizer, you’ll make installation even simpler by […]
This article comes to us from Aaron L. Berger, Extension Educator, and Rick N. Funston, Beef Reproductive Physiology Specialist, both from University of Nebraska Extension. In the past several decades, post-weaning development of replacement heifers has focused on feeding heifers to reach a target body weight of 60 to 65 percent of mature weight at…
at breeding to achieve acceptable pregnancy rates (85 to 95 percent) in a breeding season that ranges from 45 to 70 days. This development system was based on historical research that indicated heifers bred at approximately 14 months of age should reach this target weight to achieve acceptable pregnancy rates.
In an effort to reduce costs, recent research has focused on comparing traditional, more intensive replacement heifer development systems to systems utilizing more inexpensive feed resources to develop heifers to lighter target body weights at breeding (i.e., 50 to 57 percent of mature weight compared with the traditional 60 to 65 percent of mature weight). Research has demonstrated replacement heifers developed to lower target weights — but on a positive plane of nutrition before the breeding season through calving — can have acceptable pregnancy rates and longevity.
These lower-input systems allow producers to develop replacement heifers at lower cost without sacrificing reproductive performance. This publication highlights why recommended target weights for replacement heifers have changed and key aspects of successful low-input replacement heifer development systems.
Why Recommendations for Heifer Target Body Weight at Breeding Have Changed
Much of the research recommending heifers be at a target weight of 60 to 65 percent of mature weight by breeding was conducted from the late 1960s through the 1980s. Since then, the genetic makeup of the U.S. cowherd has changed significantly. Age of puberty does not seem to be limiting heifer development programs as it did in the past. Heifers are reaching puberty at younger ages and at a lower percentage of their mature weight than has occurred historically.
Research contributing to this publication was conducted using current British and Continental genetics in the United States. The following genetic trends have been realized by widespread management changes and the use of Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) in the selection for a variety of traits, including scrotal circumference and yearling weight.
After weaning and prior to winter can be one of the most economical times to improve the body condition score (BCS) of a spring-calving cow.
If you have cows that are thinner than normal, consider weaning earlier to give those cows a chance to gain body condition, and hold it through the winter. This is especially true for younger females.
Data from the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Practicum teaching herd illustrates how the time of weaning affects the cow Body Condition Score (BCS) over the winter and into the next summer. (See the graph below.) By weaning in September, cows maintained almost an entire BCS greater than weaning in October. This can be especially important if we have a wet and cold winter like 2018-2019. If it gets cold enough, there may be times producers cannot feed enough to give cows the energy needed to withstand the cold. In periods like this, cows lose body condition to offset an energy-deficient diet. Body condition scoring is an effective management tool to estimate the energy reserves of a cow, and in essence, cows with a BCS of 5 or greater going into the winter are an insurance policy or risk management tool.