The age-old question: How many replacements do I keep?

From The Beef Cattle Institute

The answer ultimately lies within how many cows you have, what type of operation, and your strategy for heifer replacement. Dr. Bob Larson, professor of production medicine, suggests at
least 10% as a starting point. Even with a 5% open rate, cows with bad udders, bad eyes and bad attitudes must go. The national average is 15%, he points out, and some herds are closer to 20%.
“For a commercial herd I think you want to keep that number relatively low, because of the increased productivity of mature cows versus replacement heifers,” he says. “So I’d like to keep it closer to 10%-15%, not 15%-20%.” The other question: How will you develop your replacements? For commercial operations, Dr. Larson suggests shooting for 60%-65% of mature body weight. It will ensure that a majority of those heifers will cycle early in the breeding season, even if they’re young. The rule of thumb: Save twice as many heifers as what you want to keep, then apply selection pressure on those that get bred early. Good nutrition and management programs help out cow longevity. Keeping mature cows helps productivity. “I’d rather have a mature cow have a calf again than have to replace her,” Dr. Larson points out. Dr. Bob Weaber, professor of animal sciences and industry, and extension specialist, points out that seedstock and purebred producers tend to keep herds young to accelerate genetic improvement and change. An added challenge there is the emphasis on cow stayability and longevity as a trait –– but if you don’t keep them, you can’t measure it.


10 Items You Want in Your Calving Kit

10: An extra set of coveralls and dry boots. Warm and dry is good. Cold and damp makes an unhappy rancher.

9: Colostrum replacement. For those calves that didn’t get off to the best start.

8: An esophageal feeder. Have it with you, have it clean and dry, and know how to use it.

7: Ear tags. What better time to tag than Day 1?

6: Something to write down records on. A notebook, blank note cards, an app on your phone, a piece of week-old mail –– whatever it takes to make sure records are kept on each animal.

5: Lube. Lots of lube.

4: OB sleeves. Have an abundant supply on hand. (Literally.)

3: Calf chains or calf straps. Calving-assistance extraordinaire.

2: Handles to go with your chains and straps. Teamwork makes the dream work. Get all of your components together before you head out.

1: A good relationship with your veterinarian, and their phone number. Tough calving situation? If you call your veterinarian late on Friday during their kid’s basketball game, studies suggest he or she will be more likely to help if you’ve established a successful working relationship.

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