Evaluate cows now to optimize returns

September 18, 2008 07:00 PM
 

Now is the time to put together your plan to determine which cows you are going to carry through the winter. Larry Hollis, extension beef veterinarian at Kansas State University, put together a checklist to help you do a more complete assessment of the cow herd at pregnancy check time. 

  • Review your records before you start pregnancy checking. Are there cows that show up as problem animals that should not be kept even if found to be pregnant? To make significant herd improvement, you need to get rid of the bottom producers in your herd each year.
  • Does the cow have a history of weaning one or more light calves, even though the calves were born during the first half of the calving season?
  • Does the cow always calve late in the calving season? Remember, it costs just as much to feed a late-calving cow through the winter as an early-calving cow, but the late-calving cow will rarely produce as many pounds of live calf.
  • Are any cows old enough that you need to look closely at their teeth while you have them in the chute for pregnancy testing?
  • Have any cows had recurring calving difficulty problems?
  • Examine the cows physically before putting them through the chute. Are there cows that have udder problems, eye problems, lameness problems, or are in poor body condition that may interfere with their ability to winter well and calve easily next spring? If so, there is no reason to run them through the chute unless you want to try to sell them as a bred cow (assuming they are found to be pregnant).
  • Pregnancy check the cows. Ask your veterinarian to age the pregnancies. If there are cows that will calve late in the spring, you may want to sell them as bred cows. By selling off the late calvers, you can tighten up your calving and subsequent breeding seasons. This should also increase the average calf sale weight for all cows that you carry through the winter.
  • Vaccinate and deworm/delouse cows that are pregnant and otherwise fit your requirements for them to stay in the herd. Vaccines to be used in the fall should be based on herd needs and diseases that might result in pregnancy wastage prior to calving next spring.
  • Weigh calves as they are separated from the cows. Compare weights to the calf's birthdate/days of age. Are they gaining as well as the balance of your herd on a daily basis? If not, is there a logical explanation? Is the explanation something that will correct itself in the future, or is it a problem with the cow?
  • Additional profit can also be generated by culling lower-performing or later-calving cows. 


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