No matter when you calve, controlling the breeding and the subsequent calving season has many benefits.
- A shortened calving season provides producers a better opportunity to offer improved management and observation of the cow herd, which should result in fewer losses at calving.
- Shortened calving periods also facilitates improvements in herd health and management such as uniformity in timing of vaccinations and routine management practices resulting in decreased labor requirements.
- Another benefit is that cow nutrition can be improved by grouping cows according to stage of gestation and feeding each group accordingly.
- An additional benefit is that the calf crop will be more uniform in age and size which can lead to an advantage in the market place.
Research on shortening the calving season
A large body of research shows that calves born in the first 21 days of the calving season will weigh more at weaning than those born during the second 21-day period.
Recent work from the University of Nebraska demonstrated this advantage. The research also showed the impacts of a shortened calving season beyond weaning. Calving records were collected between 2000 and 2008 at the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory near Whitman, Neb. These records were used to determine the effect of estrous synchronization on calving distribution and the impact of time of calving on carcass characteristics. More synchronized cows calved during the first 21 days compared to non-synchronized cows, and calves born to synchronized dams were heavier at weaning.
Calves born in the first 21 days of the calving season had greater carcass weights, marbling scores, and yield grades than later born calves. In addition, the percentage of steers grading premium choice or greater and the total carcass value declined as time of calving increased.
This University of Nebraska study, found in the 2010 Beef Cattle Report, shows that estrous synchronization with natural breeding resulted in cows giving birth earlier, and calves born earlier in the season were heavier at weaning and produced a heavier, more valuable carcass.
Estrous synchronization as a management tool
Estrous synchronization is one management tool to shorten and manage the breeding and calving season. Choosing an estrous synchronization system that can be used with artificial insemination or with natural breeding can be difficult as a number of protocols for synchronizing estrous are available.