With the cow herd at the smallest level since 1962, recent moderation in grain prices, and optimism for growth in domestic and export demand, the stage is set for expansion of the national beef cow herd. Iowa State University Extension beef cow-calf specialist Patrick Gunn said this has led to increased heifer retention numbers over the past two years, but environmental and financial concerns have tempered that optimism.
“Previous droughts in many areas of the U.S., coupled with high feed and land prices in recent years, have undoubtedly hampered realization of true expansion to date,” he said. “However, withrecent reductions in grain and land prices combined with both fed and feeder cattle markets now at record levels, it appears the national cow herd is ready to expand.”
The recent price boom in all sectors of the beef industry translates to increased value (and cost) of replacement breeding stock, so it’s vital to understand how to maximize reproductive efficiency and breeding herd longevity for enterprises looking to expand, he said. That’s why the Iowa Beef Center (IBC) at Iowa State offered two series, in 2012 and 2014, aimed at the development of yearling heifers and maintenance of the first-calf female.
“In conjunction with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, in early 2014 the Iowa Beef Center offered a successful statewide educational program titled, ‘Heifer Development: Maintaining Your Investment,’” Gunn said. “Through this program, best management practices from pregnancy-check as a yearling through breeding season as a two-year-old were outlined and resources shared.”
Since then, IBC has received multiple requests for that same information. To assist with the demand, various staff and faculty members have created a series of YouTube videos and are compiling links to additional resources. Links to the videos and additional resources are available on this page on the IBC website. There are links to 10 new videos that highlight best management practices of first-calf heifers, and eight videos from the 2012 educational series on best management practices for developing yearling females. As additional resources are identified, they’ll be added to the page.