Rayner Reckons

Jul 09

Managing your first calf heifers

Posted on Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Last weekend I was working with a producer, pregnancy testing this years maiden heifers, as well as a large group of first calf heifers.  Unfortunately a large number of the first calf heifers were found to be not in calf. 

First calf heifers, especially those which calve as 2 year olds, can be very difficult to rejoin successfully, and often have lower pregnancy rates when compared against older cows.  

There are a couple of reasons for this.  Cattle in a Fat Score (FS) range of 3 - 4 should take around 50 days to commence cycling after calving.  Younger cows, may take up to 20 days more than this.  If the Fat Score of those cattle is lower than FS 3, the time taken to return to oestrus is increased.  

In a controlled joining program, usually a 12 week program, these delays often see many females failing to go into calf.

I reckon that the first calf heifers are the group of cattle that deserve the most love and attention in a breeding herd.  

Close attention during calving needs to be complemented with access to good quality nutrition.  If pasture quality and quantity are limited, then supplementary feeding is essential.

I also reckon its a good idea to keep the first calf heifers in a separate group to the older cows from calving to joining. This way you can manage their needs more closely and get them ready for joining more efficiently.

Pregnancy testing is a key tool in managing your breeding females.  Finding the non pregnant females early can allow you a chance to either remove those females from the operation, or make some decisions about rejoining.

If you do decide to sell those non pregnant females, consider ways which allows you to capture a higher value.  

After the pregnancy testing on the weekend, I was able to sit down with the producer and we worked out a plan which covered both managing the non pregnant females and some strategies for the pregnant cows and this years group of maiden heifers.  I was really happy to be able to help with that planning and I definitely reckon its one of the most rewarding parts of my business.  

If you do want to discuss some options or put a plan in place for your first calf heifers, feel free to get in touch with me and we can set something in place.



Jul 03

Looking after your calving cows

Posted on Wednesday, July 03, 2013

In Northern NSW, calving is just starting in a lot of beef herds.  I really love seeing new calves appearing in paddocks as I drive about visiting clients

In terms of major events on the cattle calendar, I reckon calving is probably the biggest event.  Its important to manage this event well, as a good calving season will impact on your short and longer term productivity and profitability.

You should aim to put your cows into paddocks where you can supervise them during calving.  

Ideally you should be able to access yards easily if you do need to provide assistance.  

Your calving paddocks need to have good shelter, access to water and most importantly sufficient pasture.

Many people don't realise how much extra energy their cows require once a calf is born. Once that calf arrives, the energy requirements of the cow will effectively double.  If the amount of available pasture, or the quality of the pasture is insufficient, your cow will lose weight and she may also produce less milk which will impact on the growth of your calf.

In the longer term, weight loss post calving will impact on the fertility levels of your herd.  Cows which are in low fat scores at calving, eg Fat Score 2, will take much longer to return to oestrus.  In practical terms, this will see less cows going into calf at joining time, or a longer and more spread out joining which then impacts on next years calving. 

Calving is a challenge particularly for first calf heifers, especially if they are calving as 2 year olds.  This group of females requires a lot more attention, both during the calving period, and immediately post calving.

I reckon managing feed for your newly calved cows is the most important task.  Using an appropriate supplement can help your cows use paddock feed more efficiently and meet some of the energy requirements placed on them as lactating cows.

Ensuring your cow nutrition is correct will help ensure your longer term goals for a fertile productive herd can be met more easily.

The critical time of calving is the during calving and immediately and the months leading up to joining.  Well supervised, well fed cows will be much better suited to joining, while their calves will be better grown and more robust which is important for your future enterprise goals.

I've been spending a bit of time talking with producers about the best ways to manage their calving season.  So if you'd like to get in touch, I can help you develop a plan to manage your newly calved cows.


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