Matching Cows to the Operation Makes You More Money

When Deanna Sand talks about what she and her family have done over the past few years on their ranch, she always points out two things. First, this is not a recipe for how to change. It's just their story of the decisions they made to change. Second, the decisions they make are driven by viewing the ranch as a whole. They now realize that EVERY decision affects something else on the ranch, even if they don't notice it for 6 months or a year. Once they started changing their operation, they had to continue to change unless they wanted to go back to the way things always were. And that was NOT an option. So, as they changed their grazing management and got off the hay wagon, they also had to change what they did with their cattle. In the first article in this series, the Sands talk about the benefits from changing their calving season from March and April to April and May. Not only was this important for lowering labor and input costs, but it was a necessity to make their winter grazing schedule work the way it was described in the second article in this series. In addition to the cows being able to graze to meet their nutritional requirements, they ended up with healthier calves and a family that was happier because they didn't have to go out in blizzards to check calves. Their new calving season is also easier because they also quit ear tagging newborn calves. (You can read more about the reasoning behind that here.) Finally, they cull animals that can't calve on their ow

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3 thoughts on “Matching Cows to the Operation Makes You More Money

  1. I like everything here except waiting until three years old to calve. That is an expensive wasted year. If heifers won’t breed as yearlings and then breed back as two year olds, your cows are not well adapted to your environment. It might cost a little–and just a little–supplement in early years to get them to rebreed as two year olds. That’s lots cheaper than a wasted year.
    Just expose lots of heifers–nearly all of them–as yearlings for only 21-24 days. It won’t be long before you have adapted cows–right size, right milk, right efficiency. See Kit Pharo article in this issue.

    1. I Calve at 2 yrs old but my question to you is this if you were to calve at 3 yrs and get 4 more calves out of a mature cow would that not offset the loss of one calf in the beginning of her life. Also would the calves out of a more mature cow be larger at weaning than out of a heifer, and if you are developing them on grass alone with no supplement what is the cost of an extra year.

  2. Great article. This series on the Sand Ranch has been helpful for a lot of people. I love the part about how much this type of thinking is still trial and error and not a lot of research. I’m in the same boat. This is cutting edge stuff and still against the grain. Of course there are good books out there, and I owe them a lot, but we all have unique situations. So it’s trial and error and not feeling guilty if we make a mistake.

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