The fall cow shuffle is close to being over. Cold weather, frozen water and the absence of feed tells one it is time for a change.
The Dickinson Research Extension Center switched production systems last year when the bulls were moved from an early June to an early August turnout. In other words, no more March through April calving. Now, it is May through June calving.
The transition has been challenging, but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. The early uneasiness of cows breeding in late summer seems to be set aside. Having finished ultrasounding the cows, they bred well.
Even as the cattle went through the chutes, the feeling was good. Interestingly, the cows seemed to be bred steadily until about midway through the second cycle and then tailed off quickly. One could say the cows were almost all bred by a cycle and a half. That essentially may be two cycles once calving is complete.
The point is that the cows bred well despite the later bull turnout, late summer heat and dry pastures.
In fact, based on the ultrasounds, the projected first 21-day calving percentages look very good. Sixty-seven percent of the mature cows are projected to calve within the first 21 days of the calving season starting May 10. That way, two-thirds of the cows should be calved out on crested wheat. Twenty-four percent are projected to calve within the first three weeks of June.
What is very interesting, because the center would like to have all the calves worked by June 15, is that an additional 21 cows could be culled that are projected to calve after June 15. This would mean the center would have an estimated 45-day calving season.
Based on reproduction, this would leave the center with 219 mature cows to calve next spring. Unfortunately, not all the cows still are sound. As the end-of-the- year evaluation takes place, the number easily could be cut to 200. The replacement heifers have not been ultrasounded, but the anticipation of having 40 replacements bred on time is very realistic. This would leave the center with 240 cows to calve next spring.
In reviewing the spring of 2012, the center held more than 235 cows. Although the center has the capacity to graze a few more cows, with the pending forecasts of continued dry weather, there is no rush to increase cow numbers. In fact, if the weather continues to remain dry, the center may have to reduce numbers further. However, that thought needs to wait for the mid to late-winter weather projections.
Regardless, the center's May-through-June calving season was successful this past year. Of the 235 cows that were overwintered, seven did not calve. The other 228 cows weaned 218 calves.