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May/June Calving Update

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Big Swede

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In the winter of 2008 I was considering moving my calving date later in the year to avoid most of the spring storms that March and early April are famous for. I asked for advice on this forum and after a couple months of debating I decided to pull the trigger, actually I decided to keep my bulls in the pen until the first of August.

There were suggestions that the cows wouldn't breed in the heat of the summer and that calving in the heat could be a problem too. I decided to quit using scour vaccine except on the heifers which saves about $2,000 a year. The first year I didn't have any trouble with scours but the second year the calves born after the middle of June got sick. I talked to my vet and he suggested ultrasounding the herd and segregating the oldest calves from the youngest calves. So last fall we ultrasounded the first 30 days calvers from the second 30 days calvers and kept them in two different groups all through calving. The early calving group made up 76% of the herd this calving season and the late group were the other 24%.

Today I weaned the early calving group. I weaned 403 calves out of 410 cows. I never really checked the cows on grass, but I was up there most every day to check the water and take out salt and mineral. That reminds me, I fed mineral with Integramoss added but I attribute most of the calf health and weaning percentage(98.3%) to the ultrasound and keeping the age of calves seprate. Next week I plan to wean the later calving group and I expect the same or better results.

Granted the calves I weaned today didn't push down the scales like they used to when I calved in the winter, but the number of live calves more than makes up for the lighter weights. I have always backgrounded my calves anyway so it doesn't make any difference to me.

My purpose of this post is not to start another calving season debate, but I know there are guys out there who are considering a move to later calving but might just need some hard data and results to make up their minds. As I get older I look for every opportunity to save labor and wear and tear on the body and calving on grass has been even better than I had hoped. Most of my concerns about later calving have not really been an issue.

Sorry for the length of this post, thanks for reading.
 

hillsdown

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Thanks for updating Big Swede and congrats an such a high % of calves, that is awesome . :D

I bet it was almost fun at calving this year ,especially not having to treat sick ones and be out there in the bitter cold .. :tiphat:
 

Faster horses

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hillsdown said:
Thanks for updating Big Swede and congrats an such a high % of calves, that is awesome . :D

I bet it was almost fun at calving this year ,especially not having to treat sick ones and be out there in the bitter cold .. :tiphat:

And I bet the calves liked it too......... :D

Happy to hear it worked out so well. Congratulations!
 

Big Swede

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Thanks hillsdown, but all the credit goes to the girls that did the work, I just tried to stay out of the way. :D
 

Northern Rancher

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Glad to hear it all worked out well-we didn't have many to calve this year cause we sold a bunch of cows but lost one-a slip- out of 50. None treated. We got $800 for our calves born midmay and on last week. Your cowherd sounds like one to visit good group of cows.
 

hillsdown

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Big Swede said:
Thanks hillsdown, but all the credit goes to the girls that did the work, I just tried to stay out of the way. :D

But it sure makes it easier on the "girls" to do their job without Mother Nature and her wrath wreaking havoc on a calving season.

Well done, all of you . :)
 

rancherfred

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I am curious how you handle your calving groups. Do you have a "calving" pasture? We had similar problems, scours in younger calves, until we started utilizing the Sandhills method of calving and that pretty much eliminated the issue all together.

The new problem for us is Lepto Hardjo Bovis. It absolutely devastated our replacements as well as took a big chunk out of our younger cows. It is a new, to us, problem that we never had to worry about, but found out the hard way that we need to vaccinate for it. The entire herd was vaccinated this year and in another month I will get a chance to check and see if it actually worked.
 

Big Swede

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We will ultrasound the whole herd on Nov. 14th, and yes JF I will update this thread with the results. I never saw any change in preg rates after the switch of calving dates. It usually runs around 7% opens.

Rancherfred, we have been using Pfizer's Staybred VL5 for several years with apparantly good results. I assume you are now using a similar product. That is the only vaccine the cows get all year and given at preg check time. I don't miss running those cows through the chute in the spring again to give scour vaccine. We've had so much ice with the thaws and freezes we get in the winter time that it would be miserable to try to work them then.

As far as calving, I move the early herd through a 12 pasture rotation and try to be through the whole thing by early July. That means about 5 days per paddock. If I go any slower I get behind the grass and it gets mature and starts to go to seed before I get it grazed the first time. The regrowth is excellent as long as you get it grazed before it gets too far along. I think moving that often keeps the scours bugs from causing too much trouble to.
 

John SD

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Big Swede, like you I look at any method to save labor and wear and tear on me during calving. When it gets right down to it, I just can't do things like I used to so the cow must do it on her own.

I've had pneumonia that really knocked me last spring and again this fall. After the most recent bout I'm on oxygen which is a real PIA to pack around and get anything done at the same time. A guy has to recognize his limitations and do what he has to do accordingly to keep going.

FWIW my heaviest steer calves this fall weighed 441 lbs and brought $705 apiece.
 

rancherfred

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We used Bovi-Shield Gold FP5 VL5 HB and boosted our AI group with Spirovac. I have enough Preg-Guard to do our herd, but unfortunately it doesn't contain the hardjo bovis strain of lepto so it wouldn't do us much good to use it.

I don't know if you are familiar with the "Sandhill's" method of calving. It was developed at Gudmundson Sandhills lab and it has fixed our scours problem. The unfortunate part of that system is that you have multiple groups of cattle with similar age calves that need to be kept separated. It ends up with grazing distribution that I am not particularly fond of, but it has allowed us to virtually eliminate any scours. The health benefit is enough that I have been forced to make adjustments with our grazing system in order to continue to use that method of calving.
 

flyingS

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The Sandhills Calving System was developed by Dr. Tom Noffsinger and Dr. Smith I believe, the Gudmundsen had nothing to do with the developement of the system. Basically the concept is to move the heavies away from the pairs in order to limit the scour pathogen load on the younger calves. I have used this system for about 6 or so years and have had tremendous luck with it. I think the key is age segregation of your calves and trying to move younger calves on to fresh ground in order to limit pathogen load. I have some pretty good information on the system if anyone is interested.
 

rancherfred

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I was misinformed. When I first heard about it I was under the impression that it was developed at Gudmundson. Regardless, it is a great system to eliminate the problem of new calves being born into an environment that exposes them to an unnecessary amount bacteria and other disease causing pathogens.
 

flyingS

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Rancherfred, I apologize if I came across the wrong way. I just wanted to make sure that credit was given where it was due. The Sandhills Calving System is a truly great idea, that is an incredibly simple solution to a lot of people's problems.
Calving situations like Big Swede's make utilizing the system or it's ideas a little simpler due to the fact that he is not locking a set of cows up to calve them with limitted space to pair out.
Swede's neigbor calves in April, not quite as late as he does, but still gets out of most of the real cold nights. He sold the heavy steers yesterday off of the cow, they weighed 640. That's a good weigh up on any set of calves in this area, especially in relation to his cow numbers.
 

Big Swede

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I agree with you rancherfred that the Sandhills calving system is a great way to keep calves segregated but it would totally screw up my pasture rotation. Spliting the herd into 30 day groups seems to have solved the problem that I had last year. Hopefully it continues like it did this year. Just when you think you have it figured out you learn something new though.
 

George

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Every morning and every evening all new calves are tagged and then momma and the new arivial get ushered to the new pasture - - - it makes it very easy to see new claves as they will be the only ones there and seems to keep every body healthy - - - if everything goes right all are reunited within 60 days.
 

Big Swede

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We weaned the later group of calves last week. These calves were born from about June 10 to July 20. They get "checked" every couple of days, kind of like the early group, mainly to check water, salt and mineral. Weaned 118 calves out of 119 cows.

We will preg check next week and mark the cows into calving groups again. My vet uses some type of hydrogen peroxide recipe that he paints on their hip if they are in the late group which bleaches their black hair brown. Stays that way till early summer so it's easy to sort them.
 

gcreekrch

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Have you weighed them to see if WDA is any different than before?

It seems ours are a lot better than when all they grew was hair for the first 2 months and we're still calving too early.
 

Big Swede

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I can't figure any WDA's because I don't record their birth dates gcreekrch. I quit tagging calves 2 years ago. All I know is that those calves never had a bad day.

On the tagging topic, if a guy is a Type A personality and a little anal, it would be hard to quit tagging. What I decided was that I was doing more harm than good. It took a lot of time and all I was doing was stiring up the whole herd. In this system tagging is optional. My two cents worth.
 

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