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Keeping a Bull with the Cows

A

Anonymous

Guest
Is it always a given that you keep a bull separated from the cows except during breeding time? I've got limited acreage and have a chance to buy a bull from a friend...but wondering about the hassle? Thanks!

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A

Anonymous

Guest
Besides the obvious of the possibility of heifers getting bred when you don't want them to. The chance for a prolonged calving season, etc. The bulls that I've been around that are kept with the cows tend to become way to possesive and attached to the girls and view humans as interlopers into their own little world. Can get very interesting when you want to work the ladies .

dunmovin farms

Is it always a given that you keep
> a bull separated from the cows
> except during breeding time? I've
> got limited acreage and have a
> chance to buy a bull from a
> friend...but wondering about the
> hassle? Thanks!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Don't know what you mean by "limited acreage" but if you only have room for a small herd of cows to get bred you may be wasting bull power (a.k.a. wasting $$). How old is the bull in question and have you seen any of his calves? Why is the owner selling him?

Perhaps you could consider renting the bull for a 2 or 3 months to get your cows bred and then not have to worry about feeding him, keeping him with your cows, etc. If any of the cows turn up "open" after being with the bull for 2 or 3 months get rid of them. Some people run bulls with their cows all year long but it is not good management. Inefficient cows ultimately get bred, but then you have calves hitting the ground all during the year. Also, in herds where bulls run with the cows all year long a lot of cows that calve every 16 to 18 months get kept, that should have been culled.

If you buy a bull at private treaty make sure he has been sperm tested and has passed a breeding soundness exam, etc. by a licensed vet. Get the vet papers and test results in writing.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Not sure I’d agree that running bulls year round is “not good management.” We run bulls 365 days a year. We sell the heifers by around 500-550 pounds because it doesn’t pay to keep them longer, so accidentally getting a heifer bred is not a big risk. Yes, they can be cantankerous but I won’t keep a bad bull – if he gets too salty he gets sold. Also, when it comes to getting out we have a three-strikes-your-out-for-good rule. If someone had cows that were only calving every 16 to 18 months they weren’t paying close enough attention.

I don’t know hardly any cow/calf people that don’t run bulls – most of them all year. Around here the people that AI are the breeders. Maybe it’s a regional thing. I’m in Texas where the winters aren’t horrible (usually) so a specific calving season would be nice but it’s not a big concern. Of course I can see some advantages to AI but when I go thru it on paper I can’t make it work out if time and trouble are figured into the profit equation. I have considered pulling the bulls off the herds except for a breeding season but haven’t ever done it. Might some day. As to your question about where to put them, it would be the same as your other stock. Put ‘em on a pasture - with a GOOD fence – ha.

Craig
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
> Is it always a given that you keep
> a bull separated from the cows
> except during breeding time? I've
> got limited acreage and have a
> chance to buy a bull from a
> friend...but wondering about the
> hassle? Thanks!

It might be a fun, entertaining, and a good subject to get a discussion of the pros and cons of a controlled breeding season. I would like to see what you other experts think and when everyone who would like to comment has posted I would like to close with a personal opinion and include the why's.

[email protected]
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
> Is it always a given that you keep
> a bull separated from the cows
> except during breeding time? I've
> got limited acreage and have a
> chance to buy a bull from a
> friend...but wondering about the
> hassle? Thanks!

If your bull doesn't have enough girls to keep him occupied, he will start looking at other pastures. So keep a good strong fence to the outside world.

[email protected]
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
If you're interested, there is a lot of information available showing your operation can be more profitable by having a specific calving season. Here's a couple of reasons: You have a more uniform group of calves to sell. If they are all born within 60 days of each other, they should all weigh about the same. Buyers like that. If you're feeding nursing and dry cows together, you're likely feeding the dry cows too much or the wet cows not enough. So you could manage your feed resources more efficiently.

[email protected]
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
And then we have the sleepness nights doing checks on the heifers.

dunmovin farms

> If you're interested, there is a
> lot of information available
> showing your operation can be more
> profitable by having a specific
> calving season. Here's a couple of
> reasons: You have a more uniform
> group of calves to sell. If they
> are all born within 60 days of
> each other, they should all weigh
> about the same. Buyers like that.
> If you're feeding nursing and dry
> cows together, you're likely
> feeding the dry cows too much or
> the wet cows not enough. So you
> could manage your feed resources
> more efficiently.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I'm about as far away from being an expert as anybody could be, but here are a few additional thoughts derived from my own experiences, reading & talking with others:

Actually, I also run 365 days with bull & cow together, but I'd like not to. Like a lot of small operators I don't think that I currently have a really viable alternative. But most of the reading I have done shows that the "experts" stongly favor a controlled breeding season.

I keep very detailed records on my cows calving dates. I'll admit to having a few "pets" that I keep because they do get bred --- but if I took the emotion out of the equation I know that I should get rid of them because they don't breed back as soon as they should. A controlled season would more than likely force me to make the decision that I already know should be made.

For the larger operations that will sell direct, by video, etc. there is an economic reward to producing a trailer load of calves of approx. the same size. And such is made easier, I believe, by a controlled season.

I know a few guys that like to push the envelope regarding the bulls they use to get big birth weight calves and they spend a lot of time monitoring their heavy bred cows (not just heifers) at calving time. It would seem to be better to have to give all that personal observation and attention for only a couple of months rather than spread out over the year.

My experience is that worming cattle becomes a tad more cumbersome if you believe it is good to alternate wormers. So I have to have Ivomec F and Valbazen available each time I worm depending on the pregnancy status of each cow.

And then I guess the controlled breeding season guys also have it a little easier since they don't have such a prolonged period of time to fool around with vaccinations, castration, dehorning, etc.

And I make more trips to the auction facility with small loads than I'd like to since my calf crop is too spread out.

I think the comment made by somebody else regarding varying nutritional needs of dry cows vs. heavy bred vs. nursing cows is a valid one.

I've had a few heifers get bred way sooner than I would have liked. I'm currently sweating one out and will be surprised if she doesn't have a big problem. I do have a separate pasture some miles away in which to place prospective replacement heifers. But sometimes I get tied up in my "real job" and can't get them caught & hauled to the other location.

With calves being born all during the year there can of course be real weather related problems ( I'm in south Texas so snow is not an issue, but rainy, cold weather can be at times). I've personally never had a calf born in July or August that amounted to much. And as I get older I'd like to minimize the time I spend messing around with my cattle in mid-June through September. I imagine folks up north feel the same way about December through February!

But to the contrary --- having bulls & cows together all year might allow you to get by with fewer bulls since they don't have to get their work done in such a short period of time. Or, if you have more than one place, consider keeping spring calvers at one place and fall calvers at the other. Less bulls needed and you get many of the advantages of a controlled breeding season.

Sorry for all these rambling thoughts, and if anybody thinks I'm "full of it" on any of those items don't hesitate to say so -- I have a thick skin and you won't hurt my feelings, and I like to read opposing points of view. Eat more beef!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Okay, here's the deal! My dad went from one hundred cow/calf units to seventeen acres, twelve cows, one bull. He sort of lost track of when and where the bull was, and I ended up with a heifer that had gotten bred (by her dad) on the very day that she turned six months. The vet took the calf c-section, but we had waited too long, and the calf died after twelve hours. Because of this added burden on a cow that was going to be small when she was an adult anyway, she has never grown much past yearling size. We will be eating her next month. My dad's standard practice is to keep the bull in a bull pen, not bigger than a hundred by fifty feet in width and length. There are very few times that the bull can be with the cows, because we can't afford any more six month old pregnant heifers... the bull hassles the cows that are calving, and the place really goes down hill from there. Granted, it was only one heifer, but that was one heifer too many. I have since heard of people buying pregnant heifers from the feed lot that had been impregnated at four months. Small place, keep bull penned and take the cows to him, if you can't get him to breed them in a two month period... otherwise..... you are taking some unneccesary (sp) risks... in my humble opinion.

[email protected]
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Good point about bull exhaustion. That's been one of my concerns when I've kicked the idea around. Also, getting your entire calf crop at once can be a double edged sword.

This is a good discussion we have going here. Like I said earlier, I'm open minded to it, but it's still going to take some convincing for me to get moving that direction. There are a lot of factors to consider. I want to put some more thoughts up as soon as I can get time to write them out in a way that they will make sense.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
OK folks, see if this makes any sense...

In my way of thinking (and I’ve never been accused of being brilliant) the cattle business is jut that – a business. The keys to making money as a producer, especially in a mature industry with a commoditized product, are efficiency, low overhead & expenses, and working hard/smart. There are two ways to look at what you’re really making (I’m not talking Schedule F) at the end of the year. One is bottom line net income that’s generated. Another is hourly income. Let’s face it, you have to love the business to be in it. Like the daydreamer said, “If I only had a million dollars, I would ranch till it was all gone!”

Anyway, to make a wise decision on something (like whether to run bulls all year) I try to figure out how much NET INCOME - not revenue - it will add, and then how much time it would cost me to get the bump in the net. And there lies the challenge.

I don’t argue that it wouldn’t be advantageous in a lot of ways to have a 60 day calving season. But, having your calf crop come in all at once could work for you or against you, depending on several factors. I’m not really shooting for uniformity because I’m running mixed cattle. Sure, I might come out a little better selling by the truckload, if the market was right. But would it be enough better to make it worth the time, extra bulls, etc.? Maybe, maybe not.

As far a feed efficiency goes, I don’t run that complicated of an operation. I’m like most folks, I guess. All my stock is on the pasture year round and they get all the hay they can eat in the winter – whether they have a calf at their side or not. Besides salt and minerals being out all the time, they get cottonseed cake when I check them. Enough to entice them in the summer and enough to help them in the winter. That’s pretty much it. Nothing fancy, but they look good.

Now, I have done a lot of thinking over the years about weaning programs and breeding seasons. We’re running cattle on a few different places and it would be somewhat of a pain to manage. There is no doubt that we could squeeze a little more revenue out of them. But would it be worth it? Don’t forget the litmus test of hourly income. I can see it working real good for a single place with a couple dozen momma cows, or on a big time operation. Maybe we’re stuck in the middle. I’ve sure given it a lot of consideration. I don’t claim to know the answer for sure and y’all might sell me on the idea before this is over. But so far when I look at the increase in NET profit and the extra time it would take, I get the feeling I would be trying to fix something that’s not really that broken.

If anybody has read any studies lately that contain hard numbers, I’d love to get the URLs to them. Thanks for all the food for thought.

Craig
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
This is a multiyear business and you can't look at the bottom line for one year without considering the cumulatice effect over a number of years. Is it easier or harder on the ladies to have the old man floating around all the time, i.e., does it make them more or less efficent, or have no effect at all? Even with mixed cows, there should be a degree of consistancy by age from any given bull. If there isn't, why would you use the bull? I'm sure no expert on bulls, I help others with their herds that us them, went and picked one up for a guy yesterday, but I do all AI, always have, always will. I don't like the extra burden of having a bull around that I need to worry about the welfare of, or the problems of insurance if he gets out and goes a visiting. One herd here only runs around 300 mother cows. They synch everything in three day periods. They AI by observed heat, after everything has been bred by heat, those not observed are injected again and bred by time. At preg check, anything that is open grows wheels. They do them in groups of 50. Calving season is a real killer labor wise. But ut's over in a couple of weeks at the most so he can get on with the haying, etc. Every management method has to take into account what works for them. If you are satisfied with the way things are and can't come up with a better solution it's best to stick with what you've got. If you're not sold on another way as being better it very well may become a "SFP" (Self fulfilling prophecy) and doomed to fail.

dunmovin farms

> OK folks, see if this makes any
> sense...

> In my way of thinking (and I’ve
> never been accused of being
> brilliant) the cattle business is
> jut that – a business. The keys to
> making money as a producer,
> especially in a mature industry
> with a commoditized product, are
> efficiency, low overhead &
> expenses, and working hard/smart.
> There are two ways to look at what
> you’re really making (I’m not
> talking Schedule F) at the end of
> the year. One is bottom line net
> income that’s generated. Another
> is hourly income. Let’s face it,
> you have to love the business to
> be in it. Like the daydreamer
> said, “If I only had a million
> dollars, I would ranch till it was
> all gone!”

> Anyway, to make a wise decision on
> something (like whether to run
> bulls all year) I try to figure
> out how much NET INCOME - not
> revenue - it will add, and then
> how much time it would cost me to
> get the bump in the net. And there
> lies the challenge.

> I don’t argue that it wouldn’t be
> advantageous in a lot of ways to
> have a 60 day calving season. But,
> having your calf crop come in all
> at once could work for you or
> against you, depending on several
> factors. I’m not really shooting
> for uniformity because I’m running
> mixed cattle. Sure, I might come
> out a little better selling by the
> truckload, if the market was
> right. But would it be enough
> better to make it worth the time,
> extra bulls, etc.? Maybe, maybe
> not.

> As far a feed efficiency goes, I
> don’t run that complicated of an
> operation. I’m like most folks, I
> guess. All my stock is on the
> pasture year round and they get
> all the hay they can eat in the
> winter – whether they have a calf
> at their side or not. Besides salt
> and minerals being out all the
> time, they get cottonseed cake
> when I check them. Enough to
> entice them in the summer and
> enough to help them in the winter.
> That’s pretty much it. Nothing
> fancy, but they look good.

> Now, I have done a lot of thinking
> over the years about weaning
> programs and breeding seasons.
> We’re running cattle on a few
> different places and it would be
> somewhat of a pain to manage.
> There is no doubt that we could
> squeeze a little more revenue out
> of them. But would it be worth it?
> Don’t forget the litmus test of
> hourly income. I can see it
> working real good for a single
> place with a couple dozen momma
> cows, or on a big time operation.
> Maybe we’re stuck in the middle.
> I’ve sure given it a lot of
> consideration. I don’t claim to
> know the answer for sure and y’all
> might sell me on the idea before
> this is over. But so far when I
> look at the increase in NET profit
> and the extra time it would take,
> I get the feeling I would be
> trying to fix something that’s not
> really that broken.

> If anybody has read any studies
> lately that contain hard numbers,
> I’d love to get the URLs to them.
> Thanks for all the food for
> thought.

> Craig
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Sure, no problem.

> Can a herd bull be kept in the
> same pasture that steers are kept
> in?
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
OK, you’re hitting too close to home with that SFP talk! Lord knows I’ve has some of those – ha. You might be right, darn it. You’re definitely right about the multi year aspect, but we have to measure somehow and I don’t know a better way than a year at a time.

I still want to crunch some hard numbers. Anybody want to throw some out? For example, what is a fair figure to use for the PER HEAD value premium of a uniform lot of calves – steers and heifers – vs selling thru the ring as they come up? I mean uniform in weight, not looks.

Yup, just when I had this thought thru for the umpteenth time, and was getting comfortable with the status quo again, you folks had to re-open this whole can of worms. I’ve got to do some more thinking, dang it. It hurts when I do that.

Craig

> This is a multiyear business and
> you can't look at the bottom line
> for one year without considering
> the cumulatice effect over a
> number of years. Is it easier or
> harder on the ladies to have the
> old man floating around all the
> time, i.e., does it make them more
> or less efficent, or have no
> effect at all? Even with mixed
> cows, there should be a degree of
> consistancy by age from any given
> bull. If there isn't, why would
> you use the bull? I'm sure no
> expert on bulls, I help others
> with their herds that us them,
> went and picked one up for a guy
> yesterday, but I do all AI, always
> have, always will. I don't like
> the extra burden of having a bull
> around that I need to worry about
> the welfare of, or the problems of
> insurance if he gets out and goes
> a visiting. One herd here only
> runs around 300 mother cows. They
> synch everything in three day
> periods. They AI by observed heat,
> after everything has been bred by
> heat, those not observed are
> injected again and bred by time.
> At preg check, anything that is
> open grows wheels. They do them in
> groups of 50. Calving season is a
> real killer labor wise. But ut's
> over in a couple of weeks at the
> most so he can get on with the
> haying, etc. Every management
> method has to take into account
> what works for them. If you are
> satisfied with the way things are
> and can't come up with a better
> solution it's best to stick with
> what you've got. If you're not
> sold on another way as being
> better it very well may become a
> "SFP" (Self fulfilling
> prophecy) and doomed to fail.

> dunmovin farms
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
If you are a competent cattle producer, how much are you worth an hour? My outside expertise is electrician-ing, and I figure my cattle would have to be solid gold in order to pay me an hourly wage that I was worth... or my husband, or any other "real" wage earner in our family. By the time I figure out how much time I spend feeding, shoveling manure, vaccinating, repairing and building shelter, equipment, and housing, there will never be an animal that you could figure hourly income on. I think the USDA or even the Farm Bureau might be able to come up with some of the hard figures you want, but just off the top of my head, you will never receive an hourly wage that would make ranching profitable. I know that hay crews receive an hourly wage on our place, and if we had any other people around, they received an hourly wage, but the cattle could never pay their OWNERS an hourly wage that the family could live on. The reason I raise cattle is the same reason that my dad went into raising cattle. As long as I have cattle running on my place, I will never be hungry.... NEVER! With a little bit of luck, someone else will get fed in the process, eh?

[email protected]
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
In my way of thinking you make a whole lot of sense, so first let me say that I don’t disagree with a single thing you said. And, BTW, power to you and yours! My “real job” is also completely unrelated to cattle. You refer to you dad in a lot of your postings – and I like that. Those “old pharts” (to borrow a Dun-ism) (he’s probably one of them) had/have a lot of wisdom to pass on. I don’t count myself as one of them yet but it’s closer by the year and I’ll be proud when it gets here. Also, I read you loud and clear on the hunger remark.

So, as long we know we’re on the same page, let me respond. It would be hard to justify running cattle if I was honest about it. But, as my dad always says (here we go again), “It’s always best to have a hobby or pastime that at least has the POTENTIAL to make money”, vs cost you money. I love those old cows; they're my golf game - except I also profit from them. Heck, I'd do it for free (in the spring and fall). I make it my goal to earn some money at it (again, we’re not talking Sch F) or at least break even. I’m not a big enough outfit to earn a GOOD living out of cows, but I can sure make it pay something. That’s part of the beauty of it. I’m not a very proud guy, so I don’t worry about being fancy or cutting edge.

Therefore, I have to look at it from the net and the hourly aspects. Heck, you have to draw the line somewhere, with some sort of criteria, or you’d be out in the pasture 24/7!

Now, finally, to the point. It’s my objective to make money at this thing. If you can make money at what you like to do, you’ve got a real deal. So, is there a better way to draw the line when making management decisions?

Keep posting.

Craig
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
My mother always told me that the ranch was dad's barroom, local club involvement and every other activity that most people leave home to fill voids in their lives with. You might say, "He was "outstanding in his field", when he wasn't earning the hourly wage from electrical work." When someone asks if we are being burdened with the cattle, I, like you, make the point that if we weren't spending money and time on the cattle, we would probably be blowing it somewhere else...and getting into a whole lot more trouble. You are correct... if you can make some money doing something you like, then that is an added bonus. The fact is: If you don't pay attention to the $$ in and $$ out, you really aren't much of a manager. Wise stewardship of all of our gifts is a commendable calling. In the US, of course, we also have that entity that is called tax deduction, and without record keeping and GOOD record keeping, the government gets more than their fair share. I guess my real question to you, if I had one, is have you ever TRIED to keep track of the hours you spend???? Because I enjoy the work so, it isn't noticeable to me, until one of the others gets out among the herd and can't tell one from another, doesn't know the personality, doesn't know what to expect from which. Talking and writing about it all of the time can't take the place of the actual hands on. Which, coincidentally, is what makes the difference between an active environmentalist and an environmental activist... one has calluses on their hands and the OTHER has calluses on the uh-huhs..... I just think that running the bulls year round costs more in the long run than keeping them separate. Other than that... lol... we are on the same page.

[email protected]
 
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