Last week, one set of 72 beef cows came off the pasture and was brought home to the Dickinson Research Extension Center ranch headquarters. The cows' trip through the chute was fast. Their average weight was 1,482 pounds, with a condition score of 5.3.
Of those that were pregnant, 55 are projected to calve in the first 21 days of the calving season, starting on May 10, 2014. The remaining 10 pregnant cows are projected to calve in the second 21-day calving period. Of those cows that are pregnant, 85 percent are projected to calve in the first 21 days of the calving season.
Is that a good number? Well, the CHAPS benchmark average is a little more than 63 percent for those herds that are enrolled in the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association. There always are good and not so good breeding seasons.
However, since the center has been breeding in August for May calving, the breeding seasons have been good. Some would say, "Knock on wood," while others would say, "I told you so." However, the fact is that the cows are breeding well in late summer.
Not all is perfect because seven of the cows were open. If the cows are going to breed, it seems like they breed quickly and those that don't breed quickly simply don't breed. In reality, the number of opens is greater than one would want, but it is indicative of a major problem.
The cows were exposed to the bulls for approximately 45 days (Aug. 1 to mid- September). The open rate was 9.7 percent, while the CHAPS benchmark would suggest a 6.5 percent rate is more typical. Given the disappointment that the open rate was a little high, one cannot help but be extremely pleased with the first-cycle conception rates. As was experienced last year, those 72 cows that the center is breeding in August have good first-cycle conception rates.
Cattle reproduction is not simple, but there are several ways to measure or identify a positive or negative influence on herd production. Keep in mind that the number of cows calving in the first 21 days of the calving season only evaluates those cows that calved or are pregnancy checked in the fall as pregnant.
The CHAPS benchmarks have been presented yearly as composite five-year rolling values and provide the industry with some typical values to evaluate individual producer operations. The CHAPS benchmarks for the number of calves born within the first 21 days of the calving season is 63.4 percent. In looking back to last year, 89.2 percent of the cows at the center calved within the first 21 days of the May through June calving season.