Last week I described how Judy and I have used the guidelines from the book The Lasater Philosophy of Cattle Breeding to make decisions for developing our herd of mama cows. Essentially it makes the case for having a few, ironclad rules that favor fertility and adaptability under your farm/ranch management system. We found this to be a great way to build a herd of cows adapted to our farm–but it means you need to keep a large number of home raised heifers for breeding. This is especially true in the first years of the program for quite a few cows will be open at pregnancy checking and need to be sold. The issue is that we turn bulls in July 4th and leave them in 45-55 days, meaning they are often reproducing in very hot and humid weather which can lead to reproductive failure for unadapted cows.
We found out in a hurry that open cows sold after preg checking in December were selling on the lowest market of the year for slaughter cows. Not only that, but often the open cows are heavy milkers and thin – the reason they are open! We knew we had to find a better way to market these open cows to take advantage of the easy weight gain these dry cows put on and increase income at the same time.
We began turning bulls back in with the herd on Thanksgiving day to get the open cows pregnant with a fall calf and then sell them as bred cows anytime from May to August. The first couple of years we sold the fall calving cows we thought of and described them as our “cull” cows. Now, instead of culls, we have a complete dispersal of our fall calving herd-every year. We have increased the price received over selling an open cow by $200 to $500. These fall calving cows have done very well with other producers and we now have a good demand for our fall calving cows and are able to replace cows with adapted heifers that are easy keeping and will breed in our summer window.