Having too much calving ease?

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Jeanne - Simme Valley
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Jeanne - Simme Valley » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:13 pm

elkwc - I agree completely. I try to grow out my heifers to their genetic potential, but not get them fat at all. Fat on open heifers will hurt (if not ruin) their potential to milk well.
I definitely do not agree that a 2-year olds' heifer should be wasted. I breed top bulls to my heifers, who happen to also be fairly easy calving bulls. Heifers "should" represent your best genetics if you have been on a breeding program.
This year is a great example. I have about 15 heifer calves. We just pulled in 4 of our top oldest heifers calves and we have chosen two to be in our show string. Both are out of 2-yr old heifers.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Silver » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:35 pm

elkwc, Jeanne, I also agree. Last year I sold two steer calves from heifers for 4H calves. One won the rate of gain trophy, the other grand champion carcass. There is no reason your heifers can't be productive.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Nesikep » Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:52 am

I'm torn on this... Yes, your heifers should be good, better than your cow herd, but how do you know until they've had a calf or two? If you keep a heifer calf from a first timer, has it really gotten the best start it can? All of my first timers this year are doing really well... the cows could use a little more condition, but they're sure raising nice calves.. One of them has a beauty of a steer.. really would make a good 4H project, super docile, good frame, grows well, and ought to have good carcass quality too
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Jeanne - Simme Valley » Wed Jun 06, 2018 6:03 am

If you are using good bulls on your yearlings, why wouldn't the offspring be good. Supposedly you kept good yearlings, out of good cows & good sires. Yes, at weaning the heifers calves MAY be lighter weight than compared to a mature cow, but the calf makes up that weight quickly after weaning. I find my 3 year olds will wean the lightest weight, if any, as a group.
It is a good practice to wean calves off of the 2-yr olds (and maybe 3 yr olds) a little earlier than off the cows. I don't - simply because management doesn't let me. But, I wean 1st week in September, so my thinner young cows have a chance to put on weight before our harsh winter. And, I winter my 1st calf heifers & 2nd calf hfrs separate from my cows and keep them separate until grass.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Stocker Steve » Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:14 am

Nesikep wrote:I'm torn on this... Yes, your heifers should be good, better than your cow herd, but how do you know until they've had a calf or two?


In the tech world you would do a DNA test on all potential replacements.
In the cowboy world would keep heifers from potent cow families.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Jeanne - Simme Valley » Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:38 am

I did the new Am. Simmental Assn. Total Herd DNA test. Have not gotten my results.
But, I would never use DNA testing to choose my cattle. DNA does not give me what they look like, what their temperament is, what their appetite is, how good their feet are, how much volume they have to survive on grass and hay. Yes, DNA can and will be a tool for everyone, but there is so much more than that. It will tell us a lot, I guess, but it won't tell us a lot also. It still comes down to cow sense.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Nesikep » Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:01 am

Stocker Steve wrote:
Nesikep wrote:I'm torn on this... Yes, your heifers should be good, better than your cow herd, but how do you know until they've had a calf or two?


In the tech world you would do a DNA test on all potential replacements.
In the cowboy world would keep heifers from potent cow families.


I do it the old way.. I don't know if DNA tests are very useful on crossbreds.. What I see as a potential problem with DNA tests is that they'll look for ONE way to accomplish a goal.. Nature is far more creative, just takes some time to get there.
I've identified my best cow families, and started some linebreeding of them.. So far I'm really happy with the calves, they suit what I look for and my management and climate.

Jeanne
I haven't always found calves catch up.. sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.. If you can afford to micromanage them and keep them away from their bigger, pushier peers, perhaps..
I also have found two trends with young cows... They milk like heck the first year, then stumble their second before settling into the groove on their 3rd... The other option is they just start a little slower and gradually increase until they're mature.. I'm not sure which is better. One of my best cows was a slow starter, but had the biggest steer of the herd at 4 years old, biggest heifer at 5 years old, now at 7 years old she's raising hers, an orphan, and a thief... she's already got about 450 lbs of calf raised and has 4 months to go, still in good condition.. I'll probably wean the orphan and separate the thief off so her heifer has a shot at making a replacement... Her older daughter (1st timer) has a heck of a steer calf.. hopefully she breeds back well and has some energy left for next year.. She has lost some condition for sure.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Jeanne - Simme Valley » Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:42 am

Nesi - no I am not able to micromanage after weaning. Some of my cows are bred to some of the same bulls used on heifers. Basically, I buy bulls for the heifers that I want to use on my cows also. I don't buy a bull that is "just a heifer" bull. There are plenty of options out there.
As mentioned, my heifers' heifers are top quality. The two heifers I referred to that will be in our show string, are just as big as ones out of cows. The only time my heifers' heifer is smaller, is getting near weaning time. Heifers start getting a little worn down, nursing her first calf, cutting teeth, and carrying her 2nd calf. I usually do not wean the whole group until 1st week in September, so some of the calves are pushing 8 months old (6-8 months, so average 7 months old).
If you raise your replacements to their genetic potential (which I think you do), there is no reason they can't have a decent size calf that grows with their cow contemporaries.
If a breeder is saving money by making their heifers "work for a living" and not subsidizing them more than what they can scrub up, then yeah, you probably better use a super easy calving bull and just hope you get a live calf at 2 years old or invest a longer growing time for them. Time is money. I would rather push them to work harder, faster.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Jeanne - Simme Valley » Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:45 am

My 3 year olds are always my most struggling group of cows. They lost weight nursing their 1st calf, go thru a hard winter & before they can recover, have their 2nd calf and is expected to breed right back. Toughest group for me to get bred back early in my season. Usually, end up more at the end of my 65 day season.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby farmerjan » Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:40 pm

We use easy calving bulls on our heifers. I do not have the time to be checking them several times a day and I am still working off the farm at milk testing and some days I leave at 2 a.m., get home at 8 and some days I leave at 4 or 5 a.m. and don't get home until noon or early afternoon. So, they get checked, but not on a regular timely daily schedule, but on a daily schedule and some days twice a day. Still, they really have to be able to have the calf on their own, so an easy calving bull is a necessity. That said, we also raise our heifers a little older/bigger before breeding. We do not do much supplementing except right after weaning as they are transitioning from milk and grass/hay; to just grass/hay so get some extra protein in some feed. Also gets them to come in and gives me a chance to pay attention to attitude and disposition. High headed, flighty, type that take the rest of the calves out of the pen at the slightest noise or movement do not get much tolerance.

The little older at calving age and size - most are 27-30 months - also gives them a little more time to "grow up" and we very seldom ever have a heifer that won't mother a calf and be very good at wanting to take care of it. They also seem to have a little better time of making milk and maintaining their body weight. Like Jeanne though, when the calves get up close to weaning, it will take some out of the first calf momma's. They will get a bit thin and occasionally will have a few that don't get bred back. Those are the ones that get a second chance, go with the next breeding group. Since we calve spring and fall, they will only be 6 months behind. They usually rebound quickly after weaning the calf, rebreed with the next group and go from there. Normally I also find it is the "youngest" of the ones in that group that may not get bred so that extra 6 months without a calf really makes a difference in them gaining weight and condition and do a bang up job with the next calf. BUT there is only "one pass"....if there is another breeding problem, they are gone....

We will keep heifers out of first calf heifers if we like them. They are sometimes a little bit smaller than the ones out of mature cows, but usually catch up in their yearling growth year. Just got to like the heifer, and not put as much emphasis on just size.

I do think that we have gone to some "smaller cattle" with all the emphasis on "easy calving bulls" and we have specifically bought 3 PLUS weight bulls for the cows, the last 3 bulls we have bought. Want to get a little more size on the calves at birth so that they are bigger at weaning. I keep pretty good records even though we are commercial, so the next 2 years ought to show if the bulls are putting bigger calves on the ground, and if they are weaning bigger. It is real random as we group our cows at pastures often by what they have. Bull/steer calves go together, and heifer calves go together. So it isn't like we are choosing the bigger cows to go with certain bulls.... we have several pastures, so there are 10-35 cows with steer calves OR heifer calves at each and then we pick and choose what bulls we are putting where. The older bulls go with the larger group of cows, the younger/15 month old bulls go with the smaller groups their first year. Only one bull per group so I am sure of what calves are out of what bull.

We have tracked what bulls have sired the most keeper heifers and have 2 we are going to probably ship when prices come up a little. Their calves are just okay.... but have 2 that we really like both the heifer and bull/steer calves out of. So we have added 4 bulls in the past 15 months to start replacing some. We sold one last year that got a little aggressive....and one that was getting sore feet/legs too often. Plus he had some age so when a friend got done with him on his big heifers, we put him in a bull lot with another bull, they gained some weight, he got better on his feet and he went. Got another one now that wants to go visiting when his girls are all bred and he is on the short list.... we also lease out a couple to a couple of friends that have used our bulls for several years, they have like 12 to 18 cows each. So we keep a couple in reserve and always try to have one or 2 that is idle in the case of one getting hurt, or cows seeming to keep coming up in heat so we can pull the bull and get a BSE in case something happened...

With 150 to 200 brood cows, we keep an average of 10 bulls, using at least 6 out at spring/summer pastures. Yes it costs to keep them, but there are many places AI is not an option....and if we have a problem, we have someone else ready to go and don't have to go buy a bull at last minute. Most of our bulls will be here for 5-10 years.....if we like their calves overall, and they behave.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby elkwc » Sat Jun 09, 2018 10:02 am

Jeanne - Simme Valley wrote:I did the new Am. Simmental Assn. Total Herd DNA test. Have not gotten my results.
But, I would never use DNA testing to choose my cattle. DNA does not give me what they look like, what their temperament is, what their appetite is, how good their feet are, how much volume they have to survive on grass and hay. Yes, DNA can and will be a tool for everyone, but there is so much more than that. It will tell us a lot, I guess, but it won't tell us a lot also. It still comes down to cow sense.


Jeanne I agree with not using a DNA test to solely choose replacements. A good example is a member of a large family farm/ranch operation in my area a few years ago when his breed association came out with DNA testing decided to use it instead of visual and history of dam and sire. He was featured in the breed association mag for being a pioneer in the use of DNA for selection of replacements. As I remember the cowherd manager and the family members brother had sorted off what they considered the best replacements. It was pointed out in the article how many they culled were the best replacements. Problems started when they were bred and continued. By the time they were 3-4 y/o many had been culled and the selection solely by DNA had been scrapped. There is no replacement for a visual of the heifer and also knowing the cow families and the dams history. Like you said "cow sense" is a requirement. Without that you will struggle. A DNA test don't show structural issues, ect.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby elkwc » Sat Jun 09, 2018 10:15 am

Jeanne - Simme Valley wrote:My 3 year olds are always my most struggling group of cows. They lost weight nursing their 1st calf, go thru a hard winter & before they can recover, have their 2nd calf and is expected to breed right back. Toughest group for me to get bred back early in my season. Usually, end up more at the end of my 65 day season.


Jeanne I'm starting something new this year. Many I know had went to calving at 20-21 months of age on the heifers. We've had some calve in that age range usually by accident or because they were a younger heifer in the group. I pulled all but one bull last winter and plan to pull all this coming fall and winter. And plan to start our calving around March 1st. Next year will be a little earlier as the fires burned some pastures so we had to move open heifers to where we had the bulls. This year like I've stated the older heifers Jan-Feb of 017 will have the bulls turned in this weekend with them. Then the late April-May heifers I won't turn the bulls in until Dec and plan to calve them and hopefully will have a little wheat pasture for them after they calve if not will creep the calves as there won't be many and then not rebreed until the following late May or June 1st. I've found in the past if you wean a heifers calf and give the heifer a little rest it pays off down the road here in our environment. It gives them a chance to mature and recover from raising the first. In 4-5 years I will tell you how it is working but it has worked in the past so think it will in the future. Many breeders that do both spring/fall calving breed their spring heifers for fall and fall for spring. I want my heifers to be at least 24 months of age but prefer 27-30.
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Stocker Steve » Sat Jun 09, 2018 12:17 pm

I am confused by this post.
Are you proposing to calve at 21 months, and then delay rebreeding of first calf heifers?
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Re: Having too much calving ease?

Postby Jeanne - Simme Valley » Sat Jun 09, 2018 3:09 pm

elkwc - How do you handle your replacement heifers after weaning?
I see no reason to lose 1/2 a year on heifers. 21 months is a bit young, but I have had a couple late born, that bred up early in my season, so 22 months. Yes, as 3 yr olds, they may struggle a little, but they still raise a great calf as a 2 yr old and a 3 yr old. Just might lose a month getting rebred that 2nd year, but they can make that up again the next year. They still stay in my 65 day window.
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