Worst weaning ever.

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George Monk

Well-known member
Mar 1, 2006
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Just finished weaning our fall calves. We only averaged 350 lbs. Usually our weaning average is 200+ lbs better! We have approached 600 lb weaning average before with some calves as big as 800 lbs. This year our BIGGEST did not top 500! Our spring average this year was 575.
There are a whole issue of problems. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the majoritiy were management related! We had health problems, poor weather, lack of condition in momma's etc.
This was only the second year that I have had a fall group and boy was the learning curve steep. Tried to cut some corners to save $$$ and that was a bust! I feel a lot of our problem can be traced back to the summer BEFORE the calves were ever on the ground. Due to management stupidity we lost 40 acres (a full 1/3 of our available pasture) of the best orchardgrass you could imagine and that really effected our fall pasture. I was feeding hay in October full bore and had been feeding some prior to that. In retrospect I wish I had been much more aggressive in feeding last fall.
I also feel that last fall has effected the condition of our spring cows too. I think they are lower in BCS than they were last year at this time. That is another change we are making....keeping RECORDS better which is going to include a BCS score.
We used some creep feed for this bunch ......once to try to medicate to help them get over a whole host of respritory problems and then about a month before weaning to set them up. Looks like I should have been more aggressive (or helpful) with that too.
Anyway I share this with hopes that we can learn from my mistakes :) :( :? :cry2: . Sorry if I don't respond a lot too this or other topics but it is hard for me to spend time other than keeping up with the great discussion. I felt like I owed this to you all. Some contribution is better than none right?

George, Thanks for the post. It is tough to post some negative experiences but those are the ones we usually learn the most from. I appreciate your honesty and sharing it. Jim
This is why I hate fall calving. It always LOOKS good when you put a pencil to it; but in practice you end up with boss cows knocking 220 pound calves out of a hay ring ten times daily when a spring calving guy has that same age calf grazing his full in 24 inch tall grass. If your cow are dry from October to February (if you fed anything at all) they are fat and sassy and you look like you are a feed salesman or an animal nutritionist. Sixty days later it is April and the cows are in that spring grass gaining towards rebreeding. Those spring calves will be eating all they can eat till the end of July or later.
Excellent post George. Alot of good information there. Appreciate your candor. This is a good opportunity for others to learn from someone else's experience.

2 Years ago I was planning to have a fall and spring calving. Circumstances beyond my control changed that. And I'm glad of it. During that time (of not having 2 seasons) I thought long and hard, and looked real close at what and how I do things here, the grazing (quality) etc. And now in hindsight I really believe that my experience would have been similar to George's.

Where I work, there are 2 calving seasons and it works well there. Here, in my situation it would not. I will stick with 'spring' calving.

To explain a little more, the forty acres was lost due to overgrazing of the grass. We didn't lose a lease so that put pressure on me to try to retain the cows so that I would have them when we got the grass back in shape. Dun was right in that we did have way too many cows for the remaining pasture but not too many if we still had the forty so I was in a rock and a hard place. Couldn't sell the cows for a short term fix because many of them are part of the bunch we use as a cooperative herd for embryo transfer :( .
One of the bigger mistakes I made during the winter was keeping the cows with calves in a feeding area too long. I should have moved the them to a cleaner pen but alas I didn't and was struck with pneumonia and scours. 2 rounds before I wised up and got it under control. Lost 4 calves through the winter and created a lot of poor doing calves. Just dumb on my part.

Anyway the fixes are going to cost $$$$$ unfortunately in tough economic times :cry2: :cry2: We have reseeded the forty acres in fescue/alfagraze alfalfa/clover. But now I am going to have to feed hay longer to 1/2 the herd to give the grass a chance.
Started using a modified Nebraska model (we are moving cows with newborn to clean pastures). Unfortunately I am going to have to supplement my mommas to get the BCS back up (feed man said use 2lbs corn, 1 lb soybean hulls, 1 pound protein). We are going to feed our spring mommas until the grass gets going and then they get to go on great clover/timothy pasture, hopefully that will be enough. The mommas we just weaned I am going to segregate based on BCS and supplement them during the summer to raise their BCS.

Watch the decisions today 'cause the impact may be far down the road.
Sorry to hear of your misfortunes.

I was talking to a dairy man over the weekend and they also run beef. He got .50 lb for his holstein steers (averaged 875 lbs) and .81 lb for the beef heifers (averaged 725 lbs) and I don't remember how much for the beef steers (they averaged 775 lbs). He said milk is down to $10 and they are gonna have to remanage their beef down to half as many so they can graze more to get the weight on. He said if milk doesn't go back up then next year is gonna be rough.

Unfortunately, I think its gonna be rough for almost all of us. I guess everybody has to decide for themselves where the cutoff line is as to what you will or won't sell your calves for.
MoGal":1lgqosvp said:
I guess everybody has to decide for themselves where the cutoff line is as to what you will or won't sell your calves for.

Then you get to the rock of if you'll leave cows open (no income), sell calves for whatever they will bring (small income), sell off some cows, or hold the calves till the price goes up (little income big cost)
I switched to fall calving 4 years ago and thought I had everything figured out. I fed corn silage to the cows and always had good hay available all winter. The calves had a good winter shelter and my fall calves seemed as big or even bigger at weaning than when I calved in March. (Even when I take into account I wean older calves now.) The past few winters were pretty mild and I was feeling pretty good about myself.

This winter was very cold and it is very easy to pick out the calves that were born in September and had some size on them before winter compared to the calves born in October and even a few in November. I have a nice new calf shed with good bedding that the calves really seemed to like laying in, the hay I put up last summer was some of the best I ever put up. And I put out another bunk so the calves could eat some silage in addition to the cows getting pretty much all they would clean up. I have a lot of really nice calves that will wean between 600-700+ pounds and also a lot that look like they will be less than 400. The only thing I can really think of is how consistently cold it was this year and it just took more energy just to survive and the younger calves were hurt because of it.

We'll see how they respond to the warmer weather and spring grass in another month or so. Maybe they will start catching up a bit, otherwise I will have to figure out some kind of solution. Do you think the cold winter could be the main cause of your smaller calves?
i like the early fall calves better, sept. - mid oct., i want to cut out any after nov. 1st. they have a better chance to get some size before the bad weather starts, and the grass is gone. i am more please with my fall program this year than the last couple. calves are bigger, cows are in better shape. the calves will jump when weaned, about may 1, and put on some good green grass, i feed a little grain to the weaned calves. i still like spring calving better, that is why i only keep a few(20) fall calvers. it is more natural calve feb-march, grass grows april, bull in may, bull out july 1st.
April and Oct are my targets for calving. Guess its no surprise that the further south you go the easier fall calving is practical. In my area summers can put as much or more stress on calves than winter.
I believe George hit the nail on the head when he said his problemswere management problems I have fall calved for the last several yrs andI will probably never go back to spring calving

One of the keys to fall calving is to have all the calves on the ground by Oct. 25th and another I have found is to feed them mommas good quality hay when calving and have some stockpiled grasss to turn out on after calving

Most fall calves will wean about 50lbs lighter than a spring calf but after weaning turning them out on good grass in the May they will gain more weight on a daily basis with less inputs also you are able to hold onto your calves a little longer and get more gain if you feel it is neccesary

I weighed calves on March 31st and weaned them yesterday April 10th my avg weight was 535 for the the herd

I had 46 calves out of 1st calf heifers that I weighed seperately their avg wt was 465 which I alwys expect out of hfrs the avg age on both sets of calves is 196 days I haven't figured their adj 205 day weight yet

Fall herds take a different management approach than spring herds as for health problems I have always had less with a fall herd than a spring herd becasue we usually don't have as much weather fluctuatons while calving

Good Luck George
This was a good post George. I'm sure you will learn a lot from this year, sorry you have to learn the hard way. When we first took over the cattle here, the stocking rates had gotten really high and our attention was elsewhere. Once the pastures got damaged, things had pretty much spiraled. There were some health problems too. It was a situation we had been thrown into unprepared but I knew it was our fault anyway. There was no quick fix but we analyzed what we had done wrong and made many changes and each year has been better after that. Since so many people here have been there and done that they sometimes have excellent suggestions when someone is "between a rock and hard place." Good luck to you.
I've found you can divide people into two categories. Those who make mistakes and admit it, and those who make mistakes and won't admit it.. I have more respect for the first group.

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