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How To Improve Your Percent Calf Crop

published: January 6th 2009
by: Dan T. Brown
source: Georgia Extension

The number of calves sold is the major source of income from a cow and calf operation. A high percent calf crop increases profit.
Reproductive efficiency is the first factor to consider in a breeding program. A beef cow must conceive in the first 40 to 60 days of the breeding season, have a live calf unassisted, breed back to calve every 12 months, and raise a calf that is heavy enough to be profitable. To accomplish this, she must be managed correctly. Management factors that influence reproduction are:   
Following is a step-by-step program to increase the reproductive efficiency of the herd.

Step 1: Evaluate the Reproductive Status of the Herd.

Record the number of cows turned with the bull plus the date the bull was turned in and taken out. How many of these cows calved the following year? How many of these calves were weaned?
Record how many calves were born the first 21, second 21 and third 21 day period of the calving season. How many cows were open? How many cows did you assist during calving? Figure the calving interval on each cow in the herd. Is it more than 365 days for the herd? Cows that breed and calve early in the following calving season are more fertile year in and year out than those calving late in the calving season.

When selecting heifers for replacements, select those from the early calving cows. These heifers will likewise be more fertile. The replacement heifers born in the first half of the calving season will be heavier at weaning time normally. Thus, they will be more likely to breed and fit into a controlled calving season program.

Step 2: Analyze Reproductive Performance.


    * Are cows calving at the right time of year to suit your feed supply?
    * Is there a disease problem in the herd?
    * Was the bulls' semen checked?
    * Did cows receive adequate energy before and during the breeding season? Thin cows will not re-breed or have a prolonged open period.
    * Were calves too big at birth?
    * Breed replacement heifers to calve 30 days prior to the start of the cows' calving season. This allows them an extra 30 days to get bred for their second calf. Were the heifers properly developed so they bred back? First-calf heifers need extra feed and time normally in order to breed back with their second calf in order to stay on schedule with the mature cows.
    * Calculate the percent calf crop at weaning (number of calves weaned divided by number of cows bred x 100).

Step 3: Follow This Step-by-Step Program to Improve Reproductive Performance.


   1. Take bulls away from cows and pregnancy check cows (60-90 days later or at weaning). Cull all open cows unless there is a very good reason for their being open.
   2. The major selection criteria for replacement heifers should be based on age and weight. Heifers born early in the calving season will be out of your more fertile cows. These heifers will in turn be more reproductively efficient.
   3. Feed replacement heifers so you can start breeding them 30 days before mature cows. Heifers need to gain from 1 to 11/2 pounds per day, depending upon weight and breed. British breed heifers need to weigh from 650 to 750 pounds at breeding time. Exotic breeds (Charolais, Simmental, etc.) and Brahman breeds need to be heavier (700-800 pounds). Breed heifers 45 days, remove bulls, wait 60 to 90 days, then pregnancy test and sell open heifers. Provide heifers adequate energy -- 9 to 11 pounds before and 12 to 17 pounds after calving. Wean calves from heifers 30 days earlier than from the cows. This allows the heifers more time to add body weight before calving the second time.
   4. Check cows and heifers two or three times a day during calving season. Put cows in a small pasture near your house during calving, and be sure each calf gets up and nurses.
   5. Check with your local veterinarian for immunization recommended in your area. Problem diseases may be Lepto, Blackleg, Vibriosis, IBR and/or BVD. Georgia is now declared a "free state" for Brucellosis (Bangs). You should, however, keep monitoring for this reproductive disease. A suggested guideline for a complete herd health vaccination program is included in this publication.
   6. Semen check bulls and have them examined by a qualified veterinarian.
   7. Be sure cows have adequate energy before and after calving. Cows and heifers must be gaining weight to have a high conception rate. Beef cows resulting from crosses with exotic or dairy breeds may need added energy after they calve.
   8. Write down breeding dates.
   9. Have bulls in strong, thrifty condition -- not fat.
  10. Use correct cows-to-bull ratio: 40 to 50 cows per mature bull; fewer for young bulls, depending on growth and development.
  11. Watch bulls during breeding season. If an unusually large number of cows are recycling and being rebred, determine the cause and correct immediately.
  12. Rotate bulls between breeding units.
  13. Leave bulls in pasture no more than 90 days; 60 to 80 days is ideal. Remember, the earlier a calf is born during the calving season, the heavier it is at weaning time.
  14. Remove bulls and pregnancy check cows 60 to 90 days later or at weaning.
  15. Anticipate bull needs for next year and replace bulls prior to breeding season.

Step 4: Re-Examine Practices that Influence Reproductive Efficiency -- Management, Nutrition and Breeding.

Management -- Take a close look at these management practices: pregnancy testing, semen and physical evaluation, culling level, disease control, calving season, and care during calving.

Step 5: Keep Good Records.

Georgia Extension Bulletin 721, Beef Cattle Record Book, is a good start on keeping and maintaining proper records for the beef operation. You might also want to check Using and Keeping Records for the Beef Cow Herd.

Beef Cattle Vaccination

A. Cows @ Late Pregnancy
    * Vaccinate:
          o IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV
          o Hemophilus somnus
          o 7-way Clostridium
          o Lepto 5
          o Vibrio
          o E. coli*
          o Rotovirus*
          o Coronavirus*
    * Deworm/External Parasite Control

B. Cows @ Pre-Breeding* Vaccinate:
          o Lepto 5
          o Vibrio
          o Pinkeye (optional)
    * Deworm/External Parasite Control

C. Calf @ 4+ Months of Age
    * Vaccinate:
          o IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV
          o Hemophilus somnus
          o 7-way Clostridium
          o Lepto 5
          o Pasturella hemolytica (optional)
          o Pinkeye (optional)
    * Deworm/External Parasite Control
    * Implant

D. Calf @ Preweaning (6-8 months of age)
    * Vaccinate:
          o IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV
          o Hemophilus somnus
          o 7-way Clostridium
          o Lepto 5
          o Pasturella hemolytica (optional)
          o Pinkeye (optional)
    * Deworm/External Parasite Control
    * Implant

E. Replacement Heifers @ 8 Weeks Pre-Breeding
    * Vaccinate:
          o IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV
          o Lepto 5
          o Vibrio
    * Deworm

F. Replacement Heifers @ 4 Weeks Pre-Breeding
    * Vaccinate:
          o IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV
          o Hemophilus somnus
          o 7-way Clostridium
          o Lepto 5
          o Vibrio
          o Pinkeye (optional)
    * Deworm/External Parasite Control

G. Replacement Heivers @ Late Pregnancy
    * Vaccinate:
          o IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV
          o Hemophilus somnus
          o 7-way Clostridium
          o Lepto 5
          o Vibrio
          o E. coli*
          o Rotovirus*
          o Coronavirus*
    * Deworm/External Parasite Control

H. Breeding Bulls (spring and fall)
    * Vaccinate:
          o IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV
          o 7-way Clostridium
          o Hemophilus somnus
          o Lepto 5
          o Vibrio
    * Deworm/External Parasite Control

Check with your local veterinarian for specific recommendations. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL ON ANIMAL HEALTH PRODUCTS COMPLETELY and FOLLOW ALL INSTRUCTIONS!!
* If calf scours are a problem
 

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