The final cattle were ultrasounded for pregnancy at the Dickinson Research Extension Center. These were replacement heifers that still are on grass.
The heifers have been foraging all summer and fall with the bulls turned in on Aug. 1. The pregnancy checks were routine and uneventful, and the heifers handled their reacquaintance with their caregivers well.
Of the 47 replacement heifers, two were open. However, seven additional heifers were culled as late-calving because the center restricted calving to 42 days or two cycles. The goal is to be done calving by June 15.
As far as the heifers go, we have a 96 percent pregnancy rate, but only 85 percent are predicted to calve by June 15. Some would say feelings have limited value when culling cows or replacement heifers. However, there always is that gut twinge when sending a well-grown, well-haired heifer to market. Reality would say that if a heifer calves late, she always will be late, so keep back a few extra heifer calves and plan to market those that do not breed on time.
Even though some of the center's heifers failed, the long-term benchmarks developed by the NDSU Extension Service through the CHAPS program using North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement producers' cattle numbers would suggest that 85.8 percent of the replacement heifers should calve within 42 days of the start of the calving season. This means that the center's heifers were right at what would be expected.
Snow is on the ground and the days these heifers can graze is coming to a close.
Likewise, the cows at the center are making the rounds on corn stock or cover crops, or are getting hay. The need to supplement or provide a complete ration soon will be the norm for much of cow country.
Speaking of supplementation, I noted previously that these heifers adapted well to being worked and were very tame. That's because the ranch crew has been supplementing the heifers twice a week with 1.5 pounds of alfalfa cubes per head. The first and most obvious outcome of this feeding regime was the taming of the heifers.
As the center has put younger cattle on grass and kept them there for longer periods, one of the negative effects has be skittish or temperamental heifers.
The alfalfa cubes certainly have changed that because now these cattle are very easy to handle.
On a broader note, cows need feed. If production is to be maintained during the coming winter months, alfalfa is one of those great feeds that certainly go a long way in helping a cow meet her nutritional requirements. In a roundabout way, the well-being of the cattle comes down to having a mix of roughages available.