Looking ahead to next year's calf crop
By By Justin Rodgers / 4-H youth agent
Dec. 1, 2002
The rains have certainly been a blessing after a dry summer and early fall. Bermuda and Bahia grass pastures were better in October and early November than they were in July.
The moisture did, however, cause a few problems.
Many producers missed that last cutting of hay; it was just too wet to hold up the equipment. Ryegrass planted early had problems with armyworms, and now it's blast and root rot.
With all of this and a fairly weak feeder calf market, hopes are that you will hang in there because better times are ahead.
Cooler temperatures and some drier weather will hopefully take care of our ryegrass problems. The early planted stands of ryegrass will accept early grazing, easing up the need somewhat for that last cutting of hay.
The 2003 market
From all indications, it looks like the cattle market is going to do some rebounding as early as this quarter If you were fortunate enough to take advantage of the Farm-to-Feedlot program or fed cattle on your own, you will be happy with your decision in the end of the feeding period.
Fats are already being contracted well above breakeven prices and this is positive news when we consider last spring's prices.
Looking at the futures market with a positive outlook, we should begin to consider next year's calf crop. If we don't have any disasters and the numbers hold, we are looking at a much better feeder calf market in 2003 than we saw in 2002.
With the drought conditions we faced this summer, I'm somewhat concerned with the body conditions scores (BCS) of brood cows going into this fall's calving season.
Typically, a cow should be her heaviest just before calving. As long as a cow is in good condition just before calving, chances are she will be able to have milk for the calf and rebreed without too much problem.
Let's stay aware that a good market is just around the corner, and we need to do whatever we can to help our females recycle and conceive for next year's crop. If processes hold, this will be a good 2004 paycheck.
There are things we can do if we feel that a cowherd has a low BCS. Each operation is unique, and different management practices can be used to correct a low BCS. The main thing is to not let the cattle fall below a BCS of 4. These individuals will be hard to settle this fall.
After this, consider energy sources and trough space. If you have good hay or winter forage, supplementation can be an excellent cost-effective measure that gets the job done. If a female is under nutritional stress, the first productive capacity she loses is the ability to rebreed.
While we're on the subject of cowherds, let's talk about first calf heifers. Whether you breed them to calve at 2 or 3 years of age, these heifers, properly managed will calve roughly 30 days before the mature cows.
This gives them 30 extra days to get over the trauma of calving and allow their body valuable time to rebreed for the second calf. Once a heifer has calved, it is virtually impossible to feed her enough early in lactation to get her to increase the BCS and to produce milk for her calf while continuing to grow.
It is easier to increase the BCS of a heifer or cow before calving, so that should be part of the management plan. Fattening before calving is easier and less expensive.
This article is concerned with your 2003 calf crop so that we realize a good 2004 paycheck. With that in mind, I would remiss if the bull was forgotten.
Good bulls are a big investment and 50 percent of the calf crop. It is your responsibility to make sure that your bull performs up to expectations. A breeding Soundness Exam should be performed on every breeding bull within 60 days of turn-out.
For more information, contact Roy Higdon, Southeast Area Agent-Animal Science/Forages at 776-3951, or your local county Extension office.