What age do you breed your heifers?

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Brad B

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I'm sure it's been discussed before on the board, but I'm new here and haven't seen it. What age do you normally breed your replacement heifers? (I know that some of it varies between breeds) We run Angus cattle and breed for fall calving. We use to hold all the heifers and breed them at 25-27 months, to calve the next fall. The last couple of years we have bred at 13-15 months. We had more calving problems with the older bred heifers than we have had with the younger ones. The major disadvantage to breeding early seems to be that it stunts the heifers and they don't get as large. Seems to take at least 100 lbs off the mature cow weight.

Brad
 

dun

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13-15 months. With good nutrition they'll mature as big as later calvers. Normally I figure that if they breed back on schedule as heifers they're getting adequate nutrition

dun
 
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Brad B

Brad B

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Here's a little background, which I figure would help. My brother and I have a small herd of cows (20 head as of now), so my sample size is not really big enough to make any firm judgements on. We bought all our cows as heifers from our dad. The first year we got five and didn't breed them until the second year when we got three more, and bought a bull, to go with them. Those first five, now five years old, will average 1200-1250 lbs. The other 3, which are now 4 years old average about 1100-1150, this will be the third calf for both sets. The other 12 are now three years old, weigh around 1100 lbs each, and should be dropping their second calf from now til Thanksgiving. We have excess amounts of grazing and our pastures are all Tifton 44 Bermuda, which we fertilize. In the winter our cows eat heavily fertilized barn stored Russell Bermuda hay. I said that to say, that I don't think nutrients are playing into what I'm seeing, but I could be wrong. Except for one, they have all bred back when they should. We sold the one that bred back late this summer. She was one of the 5 year old's and she weighed 1350 at the sale barn. She looked like a tank with legs.

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txshowmom

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If you waited till all 20 of your cows were 2 to breed them then you are cheating yourself out of about 10,000. Now I ask you is 100 pounds difference in the mature weight of a cow worth 10 grand?
 
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Brad B

Brad B

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txshowmom,

That's a very valid point. You would also have to look at the weight of the weaning calf. The calves from the heavier dams would wean of at a higher weight, then over the life of the cow herd, the initial loss of $10,000 would be greatly reduced. I'm not saying that I think one way is right or another was wrong, I was mainly asking a curiosity question.
 

Jake

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why do they need to be 100 lbs heavier anyways? they just eat that much more feed. which is another amount of money....
 

Jake

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if you have calves in both spring and fall you hit both markets. That way everything isn't focused on one market. One event can screw you out of a pretty penny.
 
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Brad B

Brad B

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We breed for fall calving for a couple of reasons I guess. First reason is we started breeding that way when we were showing steers. Needed the fall calves for the shows here. The market is usually good in the late spring when we sell calves, so it works for us.
 

dun

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Our heifers wean a calf within 50 lbs of the wean as older cows. Breed back on schedult, etc. The mature weights run in the same range of what I would expect from their genetics, in some cases heavier. Waiting till she is 3 to calve is one less calf in her productive lifetime.

dun
 

Texan

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Not trying to start an argument here. Just offering another perspective.......

dun":3suw6uqi said:
Waiting till she is 3 to calve is one less calf in her productive lifetime.
Not necessarily. At least, not in my opinion. The one less calf in her lifetime is a common theory, and if it works good for you do it! But its only true if you cull based solely on age. To me, a cow's "productive lifetime" is based more on the number of calves she raises than the number of years she stays here. A 14 year old cow that has raised 12 calves is just as likely to meet the criteria for culling as a 15 year old cow that has raised 12 calves. In my opinion, its the gestation, calving, lactation, gestation, calving, lactation, year after year, along with the number of miles a cow covers to meet the nutritional requirements of herself and her calves that takes away from her productive life. When you figure that one extra year to keep her as a yearling, and spread it out over 12 calves, its a nominal figure.

But, why would you even want that extra investment in her? We've tried it both ways. Even calved some at 18 months. Many of us don't have the room to keep a set of growing, wet two-year olds separate to provide them the extra nutrition they need to raise their calves and complete their own growth. We have to throw them in with the cowherd as soon as possible. And, not to mention, that extra nutrition around here usually has to come out of a sack. That's an input that we frown on unless absolutely necessary. Too many times, we haven't spent the extra money on them that they require and are rewarded by a skipped second, or many times, a skipped third calf. If they're gonna skip a calf, I'd rather they skip that first one! Its all about lower inputs for me.

I can take an open yearling heifer and rough her through the winter with the cowherd. When spring grass hits and she's a framey two year old, she compensates for her rough life with rapid gains on that spring grass, at the same time she is cycling like clockwork and ready for bull turnout. She spends all summer with the lactating cowherd while she continues her growth, with the only extra job for her being early gestation. In the winter before she calves, she has to complete the growth of a 70 pound fetus, but its no biggie 'cause she's almost reached mature size. By the time she calves at 30 to 36 months, she no longer has to complete her own growth while trying to raise a calf with the same amount of groceries as the mature cows. Plus, she is large enough not to worry as much about calving problems. She's now a cow with her first calf and living with the cowherd.

Yes, I have an extra year of upkeep for her as a yearling. But its not a year of pampered TLC that she'll brag to her babies about. Spread out over her lifetime, its not much money annually. The reward is less dystocia and better breedups in her early years, without a lot of supplemental nutrition. A good deal for me!
 

Cattle Rack Rancher

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Texan:
An interesting argument. I, personally, roll the dice and hope I don't miss a calf but one of my best cows missed her 2nd calf and so did her daughter. I kept them both because the calves they do have are very robust and fast growing and I think it will make up for keeping her in the long run. My calves eat well in their first winter. I give them the cattle enough feed to last two or three days each time I feed them. Saves wear and tear on the equipment in the minus 40 weather. Also, if I have to feed that heifer anyway, the little extra it takes when she's bred vs not is probably worth it if I can get any calf off of her at all. Also if she turns out to not have the kind of calves I'm looking for, I find out a year earlier. Every cow on my place gets two chances. If they have a dud calf twice or come up open after a dud calf or come up open more than once in their lifetime. Or if they lose a calf for any reason combined with the above they are gone. Also, breeding them early gains me a year if they do have to be shipped. Cows are still pretty good eating at 3 years. By the time they are four, not quite as good. Just my opinion.
 

dun

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Texan":3kln4ikz said:
Not trying to start an argument here. Just offering another perspective.......

Not necessarily. At least, not in my opinion. The one less calf in her lifetime is a common theory, and if it works good for you do it! But its only true if you cull based solely on age. To me, a cow's "productive lifetime" is based more on the number of calves she raises than the number of years she stays here. A 14 year old cow that has raised 12 calves is just as likely to meet the criteria for culling as a 15 year old cow that has raised 12 calves. In my opinion, its the gestation, calving, lactation, gestation, calving, lactation, year after year, along with the number of miles a cow covers to meet the nutritional requirements of herself and her calves that takes away from her productive life. When you figure that one extra year to keep her as a yearling, and spread it out over 12 calves, its a nominal figure.

But, why would you even want that extra investment in her? We've tried it both ways. Even calved some at 18 months. Many of us don't have the room to keep a set of growing, wet two-year olds separate to provide them the extra nutrition they need to raise their calves and complete their own growth. We have to throw them in with the cowherd as soon as possible. And, not to mention, that extra nutrition around here usually has to come out of a sack. That's an input that we frown on unless absolutely necessary. Too many times, we haven't spent the extra money on them that they require and are rewarded by a skipped second, or many times, a skipped third calf. If they're gonna skip a calf, I'd rather they skip that first one! Its all about lower inputs for me.

I can take an open yearling heifer and rough her through the winter with the cowherd. When spring grass hits and she's a framey two year old, she compensates for her rough life with rapid gains on that spring grass, at the same time she is cycling like clockwork and ready for bull turnout. She spends all summer with the lactating cowherd while she continues her growth, with the only extra job for her being early gestation. In the winter before she calves, she has to complete the growth of a 70 pound fetus, but its no biggie 'cause she's almost reached mature size. By the time she calves at 30 to 36 months, she no longer has to complete her own growth while trying to raise a calf with the same amount of groceries as the mature cows. Plus, she is large enough not to worry as much about calving problems. She's now a cow with her first calf and living with the cowherd.

Yes, I have an extra year of upkeep for her as a yearling. But its not a year of pampered TLC that she'll brag to her babies about. Spread out over her lifetime, its not much money annually. The reward is less dystocia and better breedups in her early years, without a lot of supplemental nutrition. A good deal for me!

A perfect example of what works at one place won't work at another. We don't supplement, we expect a heifer to calve unassisted at 2, raise a calf that is close to 50% of her body weight with a heavier calf after her first, breed back on schedule and do it year after year. A couple of years ago we culled a first calver because she didn't breed back. She also turned into an insane atttack cow just before her calfs were weaned. She weaned 842 lbs of calf (twins), not to shabby for a 1000 lb heifer. She was a BCS of around 5.5 when we weaned her calves. She was the first we've had to cull for missing a year in a long time, although she was slotted for culling because of her disposition anyway. I still think the reason she didn't settle was because she went berserk whenever she got restricted in anyway. AMazing how much she changed from when she calved in just a couple of months.

dun
 

hillbilly

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Intresting, Texan,

We breed at 14 months for many of the same reasons listed above.
Plus, our farm is in one piece, I couldn't keep a bull away from my heifers
for a year after they started cyciling, as a matter of fact the bull pushing on my heifer pen usually determins which heifer gets turned out and when.
I suppose if you could put them in some remote area with no bulls within a few miles.....Our bulls would push through about anything for a heifer.

I think I would still feel like I was giving up a calf.

Hillbilly
 

TheBullLady

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Very interesting concept Texan.. and different view to consider!

I had a few heifers a couple of years ago that were still open at 18 months (a long story) and my friend and fellow breeder harasses me still about that. I'm going to remember this for a good argument! :)
 

txshowmom

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I agree with this:

Intresting, Texan,

We breed at 14 months for many of the same reasons listed above.
Plus, our farm is in one piece, I couldn't keep a bull away from my heifers
for a year after they started cyciling, as a matter of fact the bull pushing on my heifer pen usually determins which heifer gets turned out and when.
I suppose if you could put them in some remote area with no bulls within a few miles.....Our bulls would push through about anything for a heifer.

I think I would still feel like I was giving up a calf.

Hillbilly
 

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