I have cattle on the brain this week. Nothing new this is an everyday occurrence, but because I have back to back to back tests this week in my three cattle classes this normalcy is intensified. Today was a great day and I stumbled upon an idea during cow calf lab that I had never thought much on. Before I get to my revelation, let me share with you possibly my favorite Dr. Kropp quote ever!
We were talking about Leptospirosis. Dr. Kropp loves to tell stories and give examples, which I am all for because well, I'm a story teller too! Anyway he was using the example of a ranch he consults in Arizona. This 48,000 acre ranch borders Mexico. Now, for the quote of the day...."We just can't control Lepto much,Ya we've got coyotes, lot's of coyotes. But hell, we've even got illegals!" So eloquently he got his point across. My new idea though has nothing to do with Lepto. It actually is concerning an insurance policy.
This past week in cow calf we have been talking about calving, gestation and lactation nutrition, and post-partum interval. Today we talked quite a bit about replacement heifer development and there was one thing Dr. Kropp said that got my wheels spinning and has been on my mind ever since. He said that he prefers a dual calving season (i.e. fall & spring) program because it offers the producer more latitude. I had never thought about this before. I think that when you grow up on the ranch, a lot of things get taken for granted until you go other places to see other programs. Out west it is most common to calve in the early fall. Here in Oklahoma it is most common to calve in the early spring. Why not do both?
Think of that cow that palpates open after weaning her calf in October. Only having one breeding season, a guy would have to wait to calve her out the next Spring. However if she palpated open, and a guy had two calving seasons. You could wait, breed her in her next cycle (November) and have a calf on the ground the following fall, six months sooner than if you had waited. This really would be like an insurance policy because instead of feeding an open cow a full year a producer could possibly only feed her for a month, her second chance would come a lot sooner, and unless she takes this time, a profit driven commercial cow calf producer must send her to town in my opinion.
Not only could a commercial producer take advantage of this aspect, but they could also take advantage of the seasonality of stocker feeder markets. The ability to sell two calf crops at distinctly different times of the year could be beneficial. Also I think making the decision to maintain ownership of a pen of cattle would be a bit easier because of the increased cash flow from another crop of weaned calves. The banker is probably gonna like this scenario more as well. They tend love anything with the potential to increase cash flow!
The aspect I haven't quite formulated a solution for is the seasonality of native range on a ranch. Inevitably if a producer is running two calving seasons on the same ranch, the availability of quality and frequent forages at the nutritionally critical periods of both groups would not be possible, unless maybe the operation was run on improved and irrigated pasture. My question is whether the need for increased supplementation of feed for the one group (Whichever is in a critical nutrition period during the dormant season of your native forage) would increase input costs to a point where it is no longer economically efficient? Getting a cow to maintain optimal BCS prior to calving while the native forage of a ranch is dormant could be tough, but we do it currently don't we?
Maybe as with all things in the cattle industry, this too is suspect to adjustment and solely dependent on the ranch's environment, infrastructure, manpower, breeding program, and goals.
Any ideas??? Let me know what you think!