Judging Hereford Calves

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nap

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I am new to the Hereford breed and I need a little advice. I have 23 bred heifers that are due to calve in about a month. I would like to expand my Hereford operation and I am interested in building quality. My question is what do I look for in a heifer calf that would help me with deciding whether to cull or keep her. I know I could make a better judgement after 6 months, but I am wondering if I could expedite my decision. I've seen great discussion on older heifers on this board but little on calves. Any advice and especially pictures of suitable (or unsuitable) calves would be greatly appreciated.
 

dun

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On really young calves about all you can judge them on is their ease of birth, growth and breeding. Until they're a copule of months old the difference between a decent calf and a really good calf is hard to measure. Any structural faults they have, i.e. twisted legs, humped back, etc. are obvious, but the subtle things take a while to show themselves.
 

Herefords.US

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nap":2hsmkola said:
I am new to the Hereford breed and I need a little advice. I have 23 bred heifers that are due to calve in about a month. I would like to expand my Hereford operation and I am interested in building quality. My question is what do I look for in a heifer calf that would help me with deciding whether to cull or keep her. I know I could make a better judgement after 6 months, but I am wondering if I could expedite my decision. I've seen great discussion on older heifers on this board but little on calves. Any advice and especially pictures of suitable (or unsuitable) calves would be greatly appreciated.

It's been my experience that you can make some phenotypic decisions at younger ages, but you really can't make a good judgement on what kind of brood cow a heifer will make until she calves the first time. You'll find that some of your best brood cows will have had average or even sub-average performance from growth until yearling. And you'll find that some of your star performers as calves turn into average or sub-average brood cows.

Cull the obvious ones early, but keep as many as you can until first calving. You have much more information - on calving ease, mature size and phenotype, fertility, and milking ability - at that time.

George
 

KNERSIE

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Typically a calf is proportionally the same at 2 months as its going to be at 2 years.

I want good weaning weights on my heifers, thats the best indication of the milking ability of the dam and ultimately also how the heifer is going to milk. Yearling weights and onwards need to be average or just above, no need to chase late maturing extremes in future breeding stock. If a heifer is heavy for her age at 12 months, but not taller frame wise and not masculine I see it as a bonus.
 

LoveMoo11

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A lot of components of this decision are going to be your individual preference, for example, some people like feminine heifers while other people like old-type beefier animals. But you want to look at how the mother performs, how the calf gains/converts feed, and make sure you have the info on the sire (weaning weight, birth weight, calving ease, etc.). You won't be able to tell all this stuff from the get go, so you may want to wait or do a series of cullings. Go with your gut and your common sense and you will be fine.
 
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nap

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Thank you all for responding and the advice. I have to admit I'm a little nervous about this first calf crop and probably am jumping the gun a little. It sounds like judgements on phenotype can be made as soon as two months, but that it would be better to wait until weaning to make any culling decisions. I'm guessing that making decisions on castration also should be done about weaning time? Thanks again for some very useful advice.
Nap
 

HOSS

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nap":e35o8pd6 said:
Thank you all for responding and the advice. I have to admit I'm a little nervous about this first calf crop and probably am jumping the gun a little. It sounds like judgements on phenotype can be made as soon as two months, but that it would be better to wait until weaning to make any culling decisions. I'm guessing that making decisions on castration also should be done about weaning time? Thanks again for some very useful advice.
Nap

Unless these heifers are registered and bred to a registered bull AND you wish to raise breeding bulls, castrate those bull calves right away. I like to band as newborns. The bigger they get the harder it is to do and the more stressfull it is on the calf. In my experience older bull calves that have not been castrated can begin to get some bull type attitude along with enough size and strength to hurt or kill you.
 

iowahawkeyes

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KNERSIE":1qlymf6z said:
Typically a calf is proportionally the same at 2 months as its going to be at 2 years.

I want good weaning weights on my heifers, thats the best indication of the milking ability of the dam and ultimately also how the heifer is going to milk. Yearling weights and onwards need to be average or just above, no need to chase late maturing extremes in future breeding stock. If a heifer is heavy for her age at 12 months, but not taller frame wise and not masculine I see it as a bonus.

My husband feels the same way. At 60 days you can really get a good idea how she's going to turn out. Great minds think alike. :D
 

grannysoo

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nap":1mi3copj said:
Thank you all for responding and the advice.

You know, that's the thing that I just love about this place. You get so many good people that give freely of their time and wisdom to help others. That is a rare thing in this world that we live in these days.

nap":1mi3copj said:
I have to admit I'm a little nervous about this first calf crop and probably am jumping the gun a little.

Aren't we all nervous about calf crops? I know that I'm not as nervous as I was at first, but the constant vigil of keeping an eye on the girls to see if they are problems.... the excitement of seeing a newborn (and it doesn't matter how many I have, I still get excited to see a new one!) ....... as to jumping the gun a little? I doubt it. You're just taking care of your pride and your investment. Nothing wrong with that!

nap":1mi3copj said:
It sounds like judgements on phenotype can be made as soon as two months, but that it would be better to wait until weaning to make any culling decisions.

My opinion (and it's only my opinion) is that at times, you can see a calf that just has what it takes. One that just has the look, the stance, the personality, the physical traits, and you know that it's going to be a winner. Most of them however, I reserve judgement on until at least weaning time, perhaps even later.

nap":1mi3copj said:
I'm guessing that making decisions on castration also should be done about weaning time?

If you must make a decision, then the answer is yes. If they are not going to be breeding, then there is no decision to make. Band or cut a.s.a.p. if that is the case.

nap":1mi3copj said:
Thanks again for some very useful advice.
Nap

And thank you too. You have some thoughtful posts and they are appreciated.

Believe it or not, I finally figured out what your avatar was last weekend. My son was home from college and had the tv turned on to football......

Guess that shows how much I watch tv and football. :nod:
 

rocket2222

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Had a calf a few years back that was without a doubt the sorriest looking bull calf I'd had born on the place at that time. The only reason he didn't get banded when I tattooed and weighed him was that I forgot to pick up new bands and I was out. Every time I'd go out and check the cows, I would say to anyone willing to listen " I gotta band that sucker. " This went on for about 3 months, then one day I went out to check the cows and saw this pretty good looking calf standing in the pasture, and who would have guessed it was old ugly butt calf. I know they don't change over night, but he sure had me fooled. Anyway, to cut a long boring story short, he went on to be calf champion at a couple of shows and reserve grand at another for his new owners. Oh, now I'll wait to around weaning time on most calves, :) to make any real decisions. Although I'll ship one first calf heifer and her calf this week if I have time, for a lack of quality and growth in her calf that was born this fall.
 

HerefordSire

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rocket2222":3qmpmvgt said:
Had a calf a few years back that was without a doubt the sorriest looking bull calf I'd had born on the place at that time. The only reason he didn't get banded when I tattooed and weighed him was that I forgot to pick up new bands and I was out. Every time I'd go out and check the cows, I would say to anyone willing to listen " I gotta band that sucker. " This went on for about 3 months, then one day I went out to check the cows and saw this pretty good looking calf standing in the pasture, and who would have guessed it was old ugly butt calf. I know they don't change over night, but he sure had me fooled. Anyway, to cut a long boring story short, he went on to be calf champion at a couple of shows and reserve grand at another for his new owners. Oh, now I'll wait to around weaning time on most calves, :) to make any real decisions. Although I'll ship one first calf heifer and her calf this week if I have time, for a lack of quality and growth in her calf that was born this fall.

I don't know much about cattle like you all do, but have you ever went to grade school with a short dude up until 12th grade and then he grew a foot in one year? Also, remember the ugliest girls in grade school that grew into beaudacious beauty queens and the cute little girls in grade school that got pregnant in 7th grade that were 300 pounds by 30 years old?
 

rocket2222

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HerefordSire":351weo3x said:
I don't know much about cattle like you all do, but have you ever went to grade school with a short dude up until 12th grade and then he grew a foot in one year? Also, remember the ugliest girls in grade school that grew into beaudacious beauty queens and the cute little girls in grade school that got pregnant in 7th grade that were 300 pounds by 30 years old?

Hey dude, I married one of those. :x























Well not really :D
 

KNERSIE

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I don't know much about cattle like you all do, but have you ever went to grade school with a short dude up until 12th grade and then he grew a foot in one year? Also, remember the ugliest girls in grade school that grew into beaudacious beauty queens and the cute little girls in grade school that got pregnant in 7th grade that were 300 pounds by 30 years old?

In the case of calves there is an economic importance associated with exactly when this metamorphosis happens. If it happens before weaning then great, but if it only happens after weaning you really have to ask yourself if you can afford to have sorry weanlings that will only start to bloom later when on feed. That is usually a very good indication that the cow isn't doing her duty and as anyone who had tried to improve milk knows, the heifer will very seldom milk much better than her dam, their may be an improvement, but drastic improvements would not be the norm.

I sell the vast majority of my calves at weaning and so do my bull customers, if weanling calves out of my bulls are sorry or if replacement heifers raised out of my bulls wean sorry calves I won't be in the bullselling business for too long. Very little point in making the feedlot happy when the bank manager is unhappy.
 
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nap

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grannysoo":1a8wcwe9 said:
nap":1a8wcwe9 said:
Thank you all for responding and the advice.

You know, that's the thing that I just love about this place. You get so many good people that give freely of their time and wisdom to help others. That is a rare thing in this world that we live in these days.

nap":1a8wcwe9 said:
I have to admit I'm a little nervous about this first calf crop and probably am jumping the gun a little.

Aren't we all nervous about calf crops? I know that I'm not as nervous as I was at first, but the constant vigil of keeping an eye on the girls to see if they are problems.... the excitement of seeing a newborn (and it doesn't matter how many I have, I still get excited to see a new one!) ....... as to jumping the gun a little? I doubt it. You're just taking care of your pride and your investment. Nothing wrong with that!

nap":1a8wcwe9 said:
It sounds like judgements on phenotype can be made as soon as two months, but that it would be better to wait until weaning to make any culling decisions.

My opinion (and it's only my opinion) is that at times, you can see a calf that just has what it takes. One that just has the look, the stance, the personality, the physical traits, and you know that it's going to be a winner. Most of them however, I reserve judgement on until at least weaning time, perhaps even later.

nap":1a8wcwe9 said:
I'm guessing that making decisions on castration also should be done about weaning time?

If you must make a decision, then the answer is yes. If they are not going to be breeding, then there is no decision to make. Band or cut a.s.a.p. if that is the case.

nap":1a8wcwe9 said:
Thanks again for some very useful advice.
Nap

And thank you too. You have some thoughtful posts and they are appreciated.

Believe it or not, I finally figured out what your avatar was last weekend. My son was home from college and had the tv turned on to football......

Guess that shows how much I watch tv and football. :nod:

Grannysoo, thanks for the nice response. We may not agree on everything but I think that is healthy. I do appreciate your thoughtful responses and wisdom of the cattle business. Go Spartans!
 

I luv herfrds

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nap I just watch our calves as they grow and within the first few months of age I have a good idea of which ones I want to keep for breeding. Now I've picked a few that didn't do worth spit, but have also picked some good ones. I put a mark next to them in our book and go from there.
One I picked last spring weaned at 618#, not bad for a 6 month old heifer.
 
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