Now is the time to be thinking just how many cow-calf pairs should be turned out to grass. Stocking rates and grazing dates should have been planned and set.
However, predictions of rainfall shortages need to be applied to the plan and stocking rates adjusted to accommodate less potential forage.
Another issue that producers need to remind themselves about is that nice, early warm weather does not mean extending the grazing period and letting cows and calves out early. The temptation certainly is there, but don't.
Grass, like any other living thing, needs to be ready when the cattle are turned out to graze if one expects to maximize the potential harvest. Early grazing does not enhance grass productivity. At least in southwestern North Dakota, the first of May is a good, traditional date to turn out cattle on cool-season grass. The first of June is a good date for cattle to start on native summer grasses.
Every spot in the world has its own best turnout date, so always check with those around you to see if you are synchronized with the best time.
There is an obvious question. How does one get the best yield from pasture grass? The answer involves the development of a proper grazing system and then stocking the system correctly. The stocking rate adjustments are very difficult to make because, in most scenarios, it means lowering cow numbers.
Cows are products of years of selection and careful evaluation, so parting with cows means parting with a piece of one's self, which is not easy to do. However, there are some things to think about to make the process simpler.
Bulls incapable of settling cows are useless, so infertile bulls should be culled. Likewise, cows that fail to settle should be culled. The greatest value of an infertile cow is as salvage. As with bulls, open cows simply eat well, compete better and produce fat. They are not the product of a profitable and consumer-orientated beef system.
Bulls that don't settle cows cost money and so do cows that are not bred to calf early in the calving season. A case in point for this reasoning is that feed is predicted to be short this year. It is of no use to live in denial. There is no room in the pasture for infertile cattle.
Early detection of open or later-calving cows, regardless of the reason, can result in a potential group of cattle to cull. CHAPS benchmarks indicate that 6.5 percent of the cowherd typically is open and 4.7 percent of the cows usually calve very late. Very late is defined as after the first 63 days or, for practical purposes, two months after the start of the calving season. Combined, these two groups of cows account for more than 11 percent of the cowherd and would make a very logical cut as the pastures and feed start to look scarce.