Calving season is winding down for many producers, but the last two weeks were tough. The problems were coming from many directions. In all aspects of life, there always is a transition zone. In the cattle business, one of the most obvious transitions is winter to spring. Spring is a good time, but the changing weather can be wonderful or disastrous or everything in between.
Historically, producers who have their cows calving in the spring have tried to avoid the transition from winter to summer. However, the vast majority of producers see their cows calve under the cover of late winter.
In reviewing data from North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association members who process their cow data through the NDSU Extension Service using the CHAPS program, the peak calving period is the last week of March through the first week of April. Many calves are born at that time and ready for cool-season grass around the first of May.
The rationale for this is simple. While the ground is frozen or at least semifrozen, a suitable environment can be maintained for cows to give birth.
Along with the late-winter season, most producers have invested in the needed equipment and facilities to ensure a successful calving season. The process has worked because producers have been able to work side by side with Mother Nature to have successful calving seasons.
However, the spring of 2013 is another stark reminder that sometimes the transition cannot be avoided. This year, the weather pattern has been wet.
Moisture has come in the form of rain, sleet and snow. Even on good days, the weather has challenged producers, so the vigil must be constant.
Keeping the herd dry and on dry land is not a simple process. The good news is that wet weather helps the grass grow and calves gain weight when eating grass.
The downside is that dead calves don't gain any weight.
No matter where a producer lives, nature's cycle always will precede the copious forage production of summer with unpredictable weather. When challenged to define the vagaries of weather, spring will be discussed.
The appropriate calving time is at least a discussion point by producers in the cow-calf industry.
There are producers who have invested in equipment and facilities to out maneuver Mother Nature. Meanwhile, some producers have opted to work with Mother Nature and have cows calving later. Both camps have to develop management and marketing plans to capture value from their calf crops to pay the bills and have some profit.