How to Start a Controlled Calving Season

May 31, 2009 07:00 PM

Maintaining a controlled breeding and calving season can be one of the most important management tools for cow calf producers, says Kent Barnes, Kent Barnes, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension area livestock specialist. 

"A uniform, heavier, and more valuable calf crop is one key reason for keeping the breeding season short.  Plus, more efficient cow supplementation and cowherd health programs are a  product of a short breeding season."

In most herds on a year-round calving season, a natural calving concentration already exists. Nutrition is the major factor responsible for cows cycling and conceiving, he explains. Since pastures are usually at their peak of quality in spring and early summer, a natural concentration of calving may occur in late winter and spring. 

No system of getting on a controlled breeding program can completely eliminate the delaying of some cows from their current caving schedule. However, by taking advantage of the natural concentration in a herd, the problem can be minimized.

A system for converting from year round to a 90-day controlled calving season over a period of three years would present less loss and fewer problems than to try to convert in one year.  Barnes suggests the following steps to move to a controlled breeding system:

  1. Build a good, strong bull pen or well fenced bull pasture.  An electric fence in addition to regular fence may be needed.
  2. Remove bull from herd.  Select removal date to coincide with latest date you want calves born.
  3. Sixty days after removing the bulls from the herd (or at a convenient time near this date), pregnancy check all cows and cull all non-pregnant dry breeding-age females which have been running with the bull and all non-pregnant cows with calves five months of age or older.
  4. Put bulls back with herd the first year so that calving season will be six months long.
  5. Start breeding replacement heifers 20 to 30 days ahead of the final long-range planned breeding date for your herd.
  6. The second year, follow the same system as outlined above except start breeding so that calving season will be about 4-1/2 months long.
  7. The third year follow the same system as outlined above, except start breeding season so that calving season will be 75 to 90 days.  Also, cull all open cows this year when pregnancy checking regardless of age of their calves.  The breeding season may be reduced even further in the following years.

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