The race is on and here comes Pine Ranch in the backstretch, Fossen Air’s going to the inside. I thought we’d keep with the musical lyrics theme!
Since we started calving my husband Cyle and Erika’s husband Doug have been in stiff competition. Everyday several times a day they text each other with calving number updates. We’ve got 50, we have 53 and so forth. We have been neck in neck until these past few days when the Fossen’s really pulled ahead. This may seem like a fun silly competition and it is, but it is also a very interesting comparison. A ranchers goal is to get as many cows bred in the first cycle. A cow cycles every 21 days. When we turn the bulls out on May 1 that means we should start calving around the February 8 because a cow’s gestation period is 285 days. *Fun fact a human’s gestation period is 280*
There is a lot of research coming out lately that explains how important first cycle calving is and how it can impact the long term productively of that calf. We are actually trying to pick the majority of our replacement heifers (those females calves that we will keep and put back into our herd as mother cows) that have been born in the first cycle. We only started doing this last year, so in time it will be interesting to see what our results are.
This friendly competition is also nice to see how our ranch is doing in comparison to another ranch and gives us some feedback about what we are doing and if we need to make some changes to improve our efficiency for the next year.
As of the last husband texts Pine Ranch (our ranch) has 113 calves and Fossen Air has 132. So we are behind. 😦
There are numerous factors that can contribute to the cows getting bred right away
1) Nutrition- this is HUGELY important. If the cows is not in good shape and hasn’t been fed properly during the winter months (this means feed and mineral) she is unlikely to re-bred quickly.
2) Proximity to bulls- This factor is very important in our area of BC, because our range is really rugged and stretches 100 000 acres, we cannot simply just open the gates in the spring and hope everybody gets bred. That is a lot of area to cover, therefore a lot of management is required. A simple solution you may think would be just keep the cows at home and bred them there. Well it’s not that easy because by the time May comes around we need the cows off our hay fields so the plants can start growing, so we can get a hay crop, so we can’t keep them at home. In addition, the make up of our range makes it difficult to fence in an area to keep the animals, so we have rented private grass, adjacent ranches or acreages that aren’t using their grass and we use that for breeding fields and keep the cows locked in fenced pastures with the bull until the beginning of June and then we turn everything out on the range.
3) Age of cow and bull- You cannot keep either too long or else they become infertile and don’t do much good in terms of giving calves for the next calving season. Bulls can be semen tested to verify if they are still productive. This is dependant on breeds and other factors but generally for us our cows can still be productive until 10-12 and bulls until 8.
4) Ratio of cows to bull- This depends on your area and your breeding program, but we like to have about 1 bull to cover 16 cows. If you have too many cows that each bull has to breed it may be too much and some of your cows may get bred, but not get pregnant. We currently have 17 bulls to breed our 280 cows.