In many parts of Arkansas, producers experienced plenty of spring and early summer rainfall. Unlike last year, hay is abundant and in many cases producers have more hay than they have cattle. With fall rains the outlook for winter pastures is optimistic and cattle are in much better body condition as compared to 2012.
The 300 Day Grazing demonstration conducted at the Livestock and Forestry Research Station near Batesville finished its fifth year. The average cow cost for the five year period was $503. Expense items included salt and mineral, veterinarian medicine, growth implants, fly control, sale commission, hauling, pregnancy testing, bull cost, fertility testing bulls, replacement cows, fertilizer, lime, purchased hay, herbicide, and miscellaneous. Overhead items and fuel, oil, labor, and other typical items were not included in the 300 Day Grazing budget. If these items were included, annual cow cost could easily be over $600.
With high cow cost, it often takes the net returns of 2 to 3 calves to pay for the cost of keeping one open cow. One can easily see keeping an open cow is a luxury most cannot afford. Often times the excuse to keeping a cow that lost a calf was; “it wasn’t her fault.” Is it worth the net returns of 2 to 3 calves to pay for a cow that lost a calf because “it wasn’t her fault?” Is that a sound management decision?
Pregnancy testing and culling open cows is a sound management decision. The first year of the 300 Day Grazing demonstration the 60 day breeding season pregnancy rate was 79%. Due to culling all open cows or cows that did not produce a live calf, the pregnancy rate improved to 97% by year 3 (29/30) and 4 (37/38). In year 5, the worst drought in modern time (2012), the pregnancy rate was 93% (37/40).
According to the 2008 USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System survey, only 18% of U.S. Cow-calf operations utilize pregnancy testing, yet 82% control internal parasites. Certainly internal parasites reduce the productivity of a cow herd, but so does feeding open cows. So why don’t more cattlemen have their cows tested for pregnancy?
What is the cost savings for pregnancy testing?
For example, if you have 40 cows and pregnancy testing is $3/cow; total cost for pregnancy testing is $120. Even for an exceptional herd, there are 3 non-pregnant cows. At $250/cow saved in wintering costs ($750 total), after subtracting $120 in pregnancy diagnoses, the savings is $630.