Farm and Ranch
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
By Rayford Pullen
Jan 9, 2017
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This spring calving in the middle of the winter is for the penguins.  While I have mostly been an advocate of spring calving, calving in the fall when the temperatures are a lot milder is looking better and better all the time but thereís just one catch and that is you basically have to give up a half a yearís calf crop to get it done and it doesnít make really good financial sense from that perspective to move calving from spring to fall.

Iíve been a thinking a little about whatís going on in this cattle market and I guess Iíll just keep on thinking about it because I have not come up with any answers.  We now have a new president and we are anxious to see what impact that will have on commodity markets as well as the stock market.  There is one thing for sure and that is it will be different, good for some, bad for some, and neutral for others, about the way it has always been.  We will just continue to do business as usual, looking for opportunities along the way and hoping we recognize them when they show.

Calving in the winter is certainly stressful from a temperature standpoint where temperatures can range from 10-75 degrees and while we donít expect any calving issues, we do try to keep a closer watch over our first calf heifers with the first check around 8:00 a.m. and the last check about 11:00 p.m.  We try to keep them in traps near our routine high traffic routes so we can observe them several times per day.  The colder the weather the more likely you are to have problems or at least it appears that way, or maybe just because it is a lot more uncomfortable. 

We have about 85% of our spring calves born during the months of February and March with a few in January and a few in April with hypothermia being our biggest problem the past years if the new moms cannot, due to the weather, get them dried off and going quickly after birth.  Now while this isnít a huge problem, we realize that the more calves we save the better our bottom line will be at the end of the year.  As I write this article, it is currently 19 degrees and snowing and a good way for me look into why and how we operate.  It just seems as though the cold weather has played a bigger role in our calving problems the past 5 or 6 years.  Hereís hoping spring is headed our way shortly.

As we weigh and tag each calf as it is born and give an intranasal IBR vaccination, we know we will use this information to go back and compare the calf weights to their sires EPDs for birth weight and calving ease.  If you have been following these articles the past few years, you may remember that the average birth weight difference between calves from the same sire on our place has been 28 pounds which seems extreme to me.  We have had some as low as 19 pounds different to some over 40 pounds and I remind our bull buyers that even though they are buying a bull we consider a calving ease candidate based on its EPDs for birthweight and calving ease, they are buying virgin bulls with no progeny of their own and while they may not want a registered bull, if they are not registered, it would be a complete shot in the dark as to whether or not they will have large or small calves.  So, while EPDs are not an end all, based on our customers results over the years, they do provide way above average results for doing what the EPDs indicate.      

And speaking of EPDs, I still remember the first time I looked at a set of registration papers with the intent of trying to make sense of them.  I might have just been reading a Chinese newspaper because neither one of them made sense. 

So, after several years of trying to learn the real meaning and the use of EPDs, I must admit that the ones we use the most to meet our customerís needs, do have some degree of accuracy to them since we do submit the actual data that is collected on the ranch.   Birthweight, calving ease, weaning weight and yearling weight are the top EPDs our customers ask about and docility (which is also a deal maker or breaker) will show up in the pens when we are looking at the bulls. 

And while there are a truck load of EPDs out there, each producer uses them differently so as to provide their customers what they want and or need.  In our part of the world, most of the calves our customers raise are sold by the pound when they are weaned or shortly thereafter and the weight of the calf at weaning is of extreme importance.  And, like selecting for any one particular trait, we need to end up with a good balanced package that works for producers whether they are retaining females, retaining ownership through the yearling stage or going to the feedlot.  The great thing about Angus cattle, in my opinion, is you have a highly desirable end product in the form of high quality beef while at the same time producing females that can back into the herd. 

Itís a great time to be taking care of Godís creatures.