There are a few limiting factors that greatly impact how we schedule our cattle timeline for the year. Pasture and labor availability are the largest drivers to our plan.
A 45 day breeding window begins about Father’s Day, or the third week in June, each year. This gives us a calving window of March 29-May 14, give or take a week on either side.
Pasture space for us is limited, so we utilize pastures for breeding then wean early to get the calves in the feedlot. Weaning early also takes this task off the list to schedule during harvest. Since we feed calves in the feedlot with self-feeders, those can be taken care of weekly while all hands are on deck to keep the combines rolling.
Weaning a week before ultrasounding gives us the opportunity to send the cows directly to fall pasture after they are called bred without worrying about having the wean out of them.
Thirty days after we pull the bulls we are able to ultrasound cows to determine our numbers of bred versus open. This is typically scheduled during pinto bean harvest, but it has been worth shutting harvest down for a day to get cows sorted. We continue to feed pairs throughout the summer; weaning calves and sending cows to fall grass allows us a break from the daily feeding to complete harvest.
Open cows are started on feed, through self-feeders, to be finished and bred cows are sent to fall grass.
Cows will stay on fall pasture as long as the weather stays mild. Once the weather turns and we need more shelter or adequate water, the move home begins. By utilizing crop residue and temporary, one wire, electric fence we are able to graze cows on tillable acres as they move closer to home until the snow becomes too deep. Then we move fully home and begin feeding daily with the wagon again.
Factors to note: we have no calving barn and calve all the cows out on a field. Heifers are calved in the feedlot with more protection and six pens to rotate pairs in as needed.
With minimal facilities it’s always a gamble of how late of a spring storm will we encounter. At the same time, pushing back calving would interfere with planting. By mid-April we are through the first heat cycle and our numbers born per day decrease significantly where we can spare people to go to the field.
SENDING TO GRASS
This date varies based on grass conditions and planting progress. We booster and brand calves before sending out, as well as vaccinating cows. If it hasn’t been done already, dry cows are pulled and put on feed to be shipped late summer.
Most of the year, cattle and crops go hand in hand, but there are times where it gets to be juggle. Consistency in our plan coupled with the ablity to roll wth the punches gives us the best chance at success. With a little luck and adaptability we are able to take advantage of how well cattle and crops can work together.