Calculating herd performance and annually comparing it to your own data set as well as a larger set of data can help keep your operation on the forefront of efficiency and profitability. As producers face the possibility of another year of below normal moisture levels (drought), knowing past herd performance will be more important than in recent years.
Many management decisions are going to need to be made this spring and summer. Depending on forage production, some cows may need to be culled. Knowing the efficiency of both your herd and the individual animals in the herd is going to be a vital component of making those culling decision this summer.
Is your cattle operation efficient? When you are asked that question, what numbers do you look at? How do you know?
Measuring Reproductive & Management Efficiency
Several measures can be used to identify the reproductive and management efficiency in your herd:
- Percent diagnosed pregnant
- Live calving percent
- Weaning percent
Determining these percentages requires accurate inventories of the number of cows exposed, either through AI or natural service breeding, the percent diagnosed pregnant prior to calving season, number of live calves born, and the number of calves weaned (See: Measuring Cow Herd Performance).
Keeping track of these efficiency ratios on a yearly basis creates your own personal baseline to measure against year to year. The baseline can help move your operation to more productive management systems that increase profitability or insure that you maintain a high level of production.
These benchmarks allow you to compare your operation to others across the region or nation, which in turn helps you analyze how efficient your operation is in relation to other high, medium, or low efficiency operations to determine if changes are truly needed. CHAPS is one of the benchmark providers available to you. Their current database includes a total of 91,414 cows exposed to bulls and processed during 2007-2011.
Above: CHAPS 2011 Production Benchmarks
Reference: North Dakota State University Extension Service
The current averages for these three efficiency measures are:
- Percent diagnosed pregnant: 93.55%
- Calving percentage: 92.89%
- Weaning percent: 91.09%
If your operation is not performing at these levels, ask yourself a big question: Why?
Most spring calving operations should be able to calculate the percent diagnosed pregnant for the 2013 calf crop. 93.55% is a high target to hit for many producers. What goes into getting 94% of your cows and heifers bred each year? Nutrition is going to be high on the list, and not just nutrition during lactation and breeding season (See: Beef Cow Nutrition during Calving and Early Lactation). There is a lot of research showing the last trimester as being a critical rebred period (See: Understanding the Importance of Your Herd’s Energy Reserves). Other reasons to evaluate for conception failure include, but are not limited to, reproductive disease, enough bull power, proper heat detection and AI techniques, summer heat and humidity, and others.