Clay Wright has found the silver lining for Oklahoma and Texas cattlemen. While many producers found it necessary to de-stock during the summer and fall of 2006 because of drought conditions, Wright, a livestock specialist with The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, in Ardmore, Okla., sees this as an opportunity.
“We can use de-stocking as an opportunity to increase herd uniformity by culling outliers and emerging with a herd more uniform in size, breed type and stage of reproduction,” Wright said. “Producers who do not have a uniform majority in their herd should define a cow type appropriate to their resources and make their replacements fit this definition.”
Increasing herd uniformity is beneficial for several reasons. First, a limited calving season of 90 or fewer days contributes more to efficiency and profit potential than any other management practice.
“Drought emphasizes the disadvantages of a year round calving season, especially in the areas of marketing, herd health and nutrition,” Wright said. “There are also significant financial advantages to calves uniform in age, size and breed make-up that are marketed in larger groups.”
Wright said another opportunity to improve herd quality after the de-stocking of 2006 comes during the restocking process. Since many ranchers are beginning to restock for the next growing season, Wright suggested buying replacements that maintain the herd uniformity established after the de-stocking.
He said ranchers should define a 90-day calving/breeding season appropriate to their resources and management, then purchase mature replacements that will calve during the first half of that calving season. Bred heifers should calve at least 30 days before the beginning of that season.
“Replacements that calve late in the season will most likely always be late and have a higher risk of not rebreeding at all,” he said. “Late calves are also lighter at weaning.”
Wright offered up one final tip: Buy spring-calving replacements in a body condition score (BCS) of at least 5, preferably 5.5 to 6.
“If you consider a set of cattle with a 4.5 BCS, discount them at least $200 to cover the cost of feeding them up to a 5 BCS before calving,” Wright said. “Pass on any cattle below a 4.5 BCS.”