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Getting calves to their weaning date: An important economic factor

While there are many important economic factors for cattle producers to consider, getting their calves to their weaning date is an important one.

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Getting calves to their weaning date is important to an operation's economic standing. (Erin Ehnle Brown / Grand Vale Creative LLC)
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Pregnancy and fertility percentage, along with live calves at weaning, are important economic factors for producers and ranchers.

“There's lots of production parameters we keep track of with calving. We like to know when calves are born, how much they weigh prior to weaning and at weaning to get a tool five day weaning weight. But actually what’s more important than some of those things is how many calves were born out of how many cows were exposed,” said Gerald Stokka, North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist.

Stokka stresses the importance of calves making it to their weaning date and not dying before they reach it. This will help greatly with a rancher's overall income.

“Losing calves before they make it to weaning is a huge economic parameter when it comes to really selling pounds, because producers are selling total pounds. It’s not so much about what each calf weighs, but how many total pounds came off my ranch based on how many acres producers devoted to the cattle,” Stokka said.

A good percentage of calves lost for producers to aim for is around 5%.


“We kind of accept 10% loss, but we could do better than that. I’d like to think we could be in that 5%, or one or two percent above or below that. Under our conditions here in the Northern Plains, 5% is very good, at 10% I think we are missing out on some things,” Gerald said.

Cattle producers should begin their winterization plan
For ranchers and producers who wish to get their percentage up, there are some steps to follow.

First, make sure the calf gets up and is nursing within the first hours of being born. Implementing a vaccination program to help fight against infectious diseases that oftentimes lead to death, and taking the time to properly introduce new cattle into your herd are also important.

Producers and ranchers can also look to see what time of the year they are calving and try to adjust their calving calendar based on milder weather. This will allow the calves to have a better chance of survival, since they will not have to weather frigid temperatures.

Cows that calve "at a less stressful time, weather wise, there will be more live calves,” Stokka said.

Cattle producers should begin to think about winter feeding plan
In terms of fertility, Stokka recommends ranchers get their bulls tested and their semen evaluated to ensure their bulls’ fertility is up to par. In addition, it is important to make sure there are enough bulls in a pasture to cover all the cows a rancher wishes to expose.

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