Producers have access to many tools to improve herd health and productivity, but setting a predetermined breeding and calving season may prove to be a beneficial choice both economically and logistically.
Alabama Extension Animal Science and Forages specialist, Dr. Lisa Kriese-Anderson, said environmental conditions and labor are important considerations when making decisions regarding breeding and calving seasons.
“A calving season should be defined and controlled by the producer or herd manager,” she said. “The key to implementing a successful controlled breeding and calving season is to be diligent about separating bulls from the cow herd on a schedule.”
Breeding seasons are specific seasons of the year in which many animals mate to ensure offspring are produced at a time of the year when environmental conditions are ideal.
A controlled breeding season does not mean having a dozen 30-day breeding seasons each year or four 90-day breeding seasons each year. Instead, it means the bull should be away from the cows and introduced at specific times.
Landon Marks, an Alabama Extension regional animal science and forages agent, said producers often argue against moving to a controlled breeding system because having calves of different ages during the year helps spread income throughout the year.
“The advantages of a controlled breeding and calving season can actually lead to higher annual revenues and profit in a cow-calf operation,” Marks said. “With planned and disciplined budgeting, revenues from calf sales using a controlled breeding and calving season can be made in months in which calves are not marketed.”
A controlled breeding season gives cattle producers the opportunity to better monitor the nutritional needs of the cattle because the cattle are in the same stage of production.
Planned breeding seasons allow cattlemen to match nutritional needs of the herd to forage resources, closely monitor breeding and calving, work more calves of a similar age at once and produce calves of uniform age at sale time to be sold in groups at group sale premiums.
The optimum length of a defined calving season is 90 days. This ensures all cattle have a chance to be rebred and calve in next year’s defined calving season. Generally the length of the calving season reflects the amount of time bulls are in the pasture with the herd. Some Alabama beef producers use shorter breeding seasons to shorten their calving seasons to 60 to 75 days in length.
Anderson said there are several guidelines related to having a controlled calving season.
“The optimum calving season will have 60 percent of the cows calving in the first 30 days of the season,” Anderson said. “Conversion to a shorter calving season will highlight two things in the herd—less fertile cows can be identified and culled and management problems preventing effective reproductive efficiency can be identified.”
Implementation of a controlled breeding season can be accomplished over time without sacrificing production. The switch offers several advantages over year-round breeding and calving.
Marks said managed breeding seasons allow bulls a period of rest to regain body condition lost during the breeding season. Separating bulls and cows for the remainder of the year also reduces the risk of injury to bulls.
Determining and implementing an appropriate calving season length will include different factors at each operation. Both Anderson and Marks recommend talking with your local animal science Extension agent or specialist and purchasing the Beef Basics iBook for tips on cattle care and maximizing profitability.
To learn more about how to better care for your beef cattle herd, check out Alabama Extension’s “Beef Basics” iBook. You can find the book here.
Based on proven tactics and seasoned with university research, the “Beef Basics” iBook is packed with information, tips and tricks for cattle producers of all shapes and sizes.