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Early weaning...

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Coosh71

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Good morning everyone. Wanted to get your thoughts on weaning now on fall calves. We live in the Texas Panhandle, and haven't received more than a trace amount of moisture since October 8,2017. We are DRY. This time last year I was able to stop feeding cake and hay and had plenty of green grass. We have no grass now and I am poring the feed to the cows, and they are starting to look ruff. Calves are looking good (4-5 months old) and I've creep fed them some to help cows out. Usually don't wean til middle of May, but really think I should wean early. Thoughts?
 
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Coosh71

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Thanks M-5. I guess another question that came to mind would be if I plan on keeping a few heifers to retaini in this herd should I keep them on the cows a little longer or go ahead and wean them as well
 

TennesseeTuxedo

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Coosh71":wnoj9ddb said:
Thanks M-5. I guess another question that came to mind would be if I plan on keeping a few heifers to retaini in this herd should I keep them on the cows a little longer or go ahead and wean them as well

Is retaining in a dry spell the best course of action? You might be culling cows in a few months.
 

5S Cattle

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TennesseeTuxedo":3kusyn4n said:
Coosh71":3kusyn4n said:
Thanks M-5. I guess another question that came to mind would be if I plan on keeping a few heifers to retaini in this herd should I keep them on the cows a little longer or go ahead and wean them as well

Is retaining in a dry spell the best course of action? You might be culling cows in a few months.
If you sold heifers because of a drought in Texas, you’d never be able to build a herd.
 

Chocolate Cow2

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Coosh71-I have a fall herd. The weather conditions you talk about are identical to mine. No rain here since Oct 6, 2017. I weaned my fall calves close to a month ago. They were born in Sept and Oct of '17. All the heifers are going to town soon. The steers will be kept as grassers IF we get rain. Otherwise-I'll go to plan B, whatever that is at the time. IF I were you-I'd wean all the calves. Take the pressure off the cows. It seems like trying to gather cows is harder if some have calves on them and some don't. If the drought continues, you have options on those weaned heifers. Send them away or take them to town as weaned, vaccinated, open heifers. I don't keep any fall heifers as replacements. My fall herd is a 'second and last chance' for open or late young females from my Spring herd. Just my 2cents.
 

1982vett

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5S Cattle":zv1ra9i0 said:
TennesseeTuxedo":zv1ra9i0 said:
Coosh71":zv1ra9i0 said:
Thanks M-5. I guess another question that came to mind would be if I plan on keeping a few heifers to retaini in this herd should I keep them on the cows a little longer or go ahead and wean them as well

Is retaining in a dry spell the best course of action? You might be culling cows in a few months.
If you sold heifers because of a drought in Texas, you’d never be able to build a herd.
I can also sell a 6 month old heifer give or take $700 - $800 right now and pick up a middle aged short bred cow for $800 to $1000....
More plays into this decision than I can possibly know, but I'd focus on keeping what I already have and worry about replacements later. In the end, I think you will find lightening up the load on the grass, hay and feed costs will be the smart money. Kill prices, although better than a few months ago, aren't all that pretty and will only worsen in your area should the drought continue. Starring Summer in the face short on rainfall and grass....I think you have to play that conservative.
 

TennesseeTuxedo

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5S Cattle":29yjr5ui said:
TennesseeTuxedo":29yjr5ui said:
Coosh71":29yjr5ui said:
Thanks M-5. I guess another question that came to mind would be if I plan on keeping a few heifers to retaini in this herd should I keep them on the cows a little longer or go ahead and wean them as well

Is retaining in a dry spell the best course of action? You might be culling cows in a few months.
If you sold heifers because of a drought in Texas, you’d never be able to build a herd.

I didn't realize retaining heifers was the only way to build a herd.
 

callmefence

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Coosh71":12jidc96 said:
Good morning everyone. Wanted to get your thoughts on weaning now on fall calves. We live in the Texas Panhandle, and haven't received more than a trace amount of moisture since October 8,2017. We are DRY. This time last year I was able to stop feeding cake and hay and had plenty of green grass. We have no grass now and I am poring the feed to the cows, and they are starting to look ruff. Calves are looking good (4-5 months old) and I've creep fed them some to help cows out. Usually don't wean til middle of May, but really think I should wean early. Thoughts?

Your pouring feed to the cows and their looking rough. Tells you everything you need to know. Get the off em .
 

elkwc

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I'm basically in the same situation you are. We have had 4 tenths two different times and a tenth once scattered over that same time period. I was hoping to weant this weekend but the weather slowed us down. Next weekend we will be weaning. The big calves the first cut and another in 2-3 weeks on the lighter calves. Will also be culling some older cows we planned to sell before next winter. Will put the calves and cows on some triticale we intended to bale but it won't make hay now so will graze it out. Should last 3-4 weeks. At that time depending on whether it has rained or not we will decide which plan to go with. We are going to go ahead and retain some heifers. Propably about half the number we did last year that are calvigng now. There are several reasons but the main one is we can't buy bred heifers or heifer pairs of the quality we raise for the same money we can raise them for. We will just cull deeper into the cowherd if needed. At a special cow sale yesterday some commercial pairs went for $2800 and all the decent heifer pairs were 2,200 or above and the breds 1,750-2,000. If I was to sell the heifers after weaning around here now they would bring around $700 and they are as good or better than what sold yesterday. IMO you can't build a herd buying culls at the sale barn and all of the special sales have been high. Saw very similar numbers at a sale two weeks ago. We have a lot of old hay we need to get fed so will use it and the manger trailer. The thing is a lot of calves will start moving in the next month if there is no rain and prices will likely drop. The steer calves will go first. Was hoping to keep them until early August.
I can't tell you what is the best direction but we talked about it a lot this weekend and have decided the above route is how we are going to start and then will adjust depending on rainfall or lack of. We just purchased another bull. Which we will likely need regardless if it rains. Because if we have fewer numbers we will likely have cows in more places.
 
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Coosh71

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We retain heifers for the exact same reason as Elk just described. Our heifers should be very fertile with the size and tempermant we look for without spending $2500-$3000 for a single animal. It's just not practical for us in our opertion. We all second guess ourselves sometimes when it comes to cull or not cull, sell or retain etc etc. I appreciate it very much for everyone's response. We are going to wean all our fall calves today. They are uniform and healthy, so we are just gonna do it now and contact our usual buyers and see what our options are. We are going to retain 1/2 our usual #heifers due to available forage likely coming this summer. Thanks again.
 

Brute 23

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Yes wean the calves including the heifers. It's more efficient to feed the heifer directly than feed the momma hoping it makes it to the calf in a drought.

I would not hesitate to keep good heifers in a drought because you can guarantee some old cows will get culled.
 
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Coosh71

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Yeah agreed Brute. Gonna cull several from spring herds this year, either because of age or grocery eating vs calf produced. If that makes sense.
 

SPH

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Nothing wrong with early weaning calves. We spring calve and have done it a few times when we had drought years where you could tell the cows were feeling the effects of it. The sooner you get those calves off the cows the sooner those cows can start to recouperate as it's just putting more stress on them if they don't have adequate nutrition available to keep producing enough milk. Just seems to be better for both cow and calf when you early wean out of necessity to take the stress off of both them as cow doesn't have to put so much energy into producing milk and calves are developed enough they can make the switch over to a dry ration.
 
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Coosh71

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Thanks SPH. We started introducing creep a few times before we wean to ease the weaning stress on the calves. Man has it helped!! 3 years now no sick calves from standing and bawling for a week. There's one or two that will cry out but for the most part they go straight to the hay and creep. We did wean today and 2 first calf heifers are calling out but the rest of the cows are doing g their thing. Thanks for the input.
 

SPH

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I thing the 1 thing when it comes to creep is not putting it out too early and not using it as a way to inflate weaning weights or supplement poor performing cows. We usually don't put creep out till about 4-6 weeks prior to weaning to get the calves adjusted to feed and then we fenceline wean which we noticed when we started doing fenceline weaning it really cut down on the stress and bawling and both cows and calves are a lot calmer and get over the separation a lot quicker.

As far as the early weaning goes, we usually start calving late Feb and try to be done by May 1 but sometimes have a straggler or 2 that calves in May. Usually wean in late Sept or early October which is right around that 205 day mark for a good chunk of the March calves which is usually the month most of our calves are born. In 2012 and 2013 we had back to back summers of drought where where we had to bring the cows out of the summer pasture in July and back to the main farm where we try to save pasture for fall grazing when the creeks dried up and we weaned calves at least a full month early both years. Our family has raised cattle there for 38 years and those are the only 2 years we can ever recall it being so dry that we ran out of water in the summer pasture. We take BCS scores at weaning and looking back we had some of our poorest BCS scores those years and it was obvious to us at the time that early weaning was necessary because the cows just weren't producing as much milk as they typically do so neither they or their calves would have gotten much out of leaving them on the cow for another month.

Go with your gut, if you're already deep into it in feed inputs you may as well just pull the calves off the cows early because all your gains at this point are feed induced anyways and your cows are going to be more efficient with those inputs not having to raise a calf at the same time. Mother nature sucks sometimes but nothing you can do about it. It's April 9 and we're still getting winter like weather here in Iowa with snow and below freezing temps overnight. It was actually warmer for good chunks of December than it has been on so far for most of March and April here. Getting a relief from that the rest of this week with more spring like weather but back into the overnight lows in the 20's again this weekend. Friday into Saturday is a nasty dip with a high of 74 (warmest it will have been all year so far) and rain on Friday and a low of 26 on Saturday and a high of 39 on Sunday currently forecasted.
 

elkwc

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We creep the fall/winter calves but usually don't the summer calves. But may have to some this year depending on if and when it rains. We have creeped the heifers calves some in summers when the grass wasn't as good and this maybe a summer we do it again. Unless something changes instead of selling them at 700-800 I imagine many will be sold in the 600-700 range. We usually don't have much trouble weaning ours. In 1-2 days they are over any bawling and we turn them out. I feel the less time they spend in a pen the less likely they are to get sick.
 
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Coosh71

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Thanks again for the point of views. We have turned calves out in a small trap for now. Cows are already gaining weight and BCS is improving. It's amazing the change in a short time on the cows. Calves weaned great no bawl at all and are doing great on grass.. like Elk said ours will sell at least 100lbs lighter than usual.
 

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