With calving behind us, it's a good time to review the results....what went right, what went wrong? Taking stock and shining the light on not only the animal performance but also our management practices ensures that we remain accountable for putting the cattle in a position to succeed.
Being customer zero for Livestocked, we now have several years of detailed herd management data in the bank and the ability to look back through historical perfomance and identify areas in need of improvement. Some might see this as a pointless exercise...one particular cattleman will tell you recording in general is a waste of time but here's a few things we learnt over the past year that will go a long way to increasing profitability of our herd in 2018:
1. 200 Days Doesn't Matter
We're all chasing 200d (weaning) weights like it's the only thing that matters but in reality, for a cow calf producer 200d means very little. Yes, 200d is often a trigger point to sell animals that aren't going to make the breeding program but in reality, 400 and 700 days are farm more important since we're now talking about a heifers ability to get in calf at 15mo to calve at 2yo.
So, I guess I'm not suggesting to forget about 200d, just put it into perspective as a trait that we look at once we get a live calf on the ground in the first 21 days of the calving season.
Fertility is the real money maker, every cycle a cow misses will cost 21 days of maintenance PLUS 21 days of lost growth in the calf. To put that into perspective, we're giving up 30-40lb at weaning. Once we realise this, chasing an extra 4lb of weaning weight by using the latest greatest world beating sire becomes pretty irrelevant if we're compramising on fertility. Focus on fertility and you'll increase your profit per acre!
Gestation matters! Very few people in the US will track gestation which is completely nuts...this is such an important trait relating to calving ease, birth weight and days to calving.
For Example, this year we used a bull where gestation swung by 23 days and running parallel with that enormous swing in gestation was birth weight. This variability in gestation meant that while his average was a very reasonable 79lb he was rated and sold as safe for heifers where in actual fact, the later calves mostly had to be pulled because they were coming in at 90+ lbs. The issue compounds when we realise those late heifers have 10-13 days fewer than the rest of the mob to turn around and get back in calf.
Achieving expected results and having confidence in a bull to do what he was designed for cannot be underestimated. When we get into "Lucky Dip" style bulls searching for the 5 great ones out of 30 calves we not only increase overall wastage but also increases management (I highly value my time).
We used two AI bulls this year and we had two distinctly different results, one bull gave a very high level of consistency with a perfect calving ease record while the other provided a high assistance rate and loss.
Maybe I'll revisit this after weaning and yearling weights are done but as of today, we'll stick with the consistency even if it means giving up a few lbs at yearling.
Get recording! Get into herd management, no matter if it's cattle, sheep, goats or pigs there's value in understanding and optimizing both livestock and pasture performance. If you don't record it you can't analyse it!
Contributed by James Cullis