Rouquette noted that success of this heavier-weight strategy depends upon good climatic conditions for planting and establishing winter pastures in the fall and some hay stocks to carry over during cold and inclement weather typical during December and January.  

Another strategy is to retain or purchase lightweight calves born in late spring to early summer and weaned in the fall, he said.  "In this case, the best strategy is to prepare pastures that include small grain plus ryegrass," he said. "These are the forages that are the highest in dry matter and nutritive value for stockers and the only forages that are actively growing during the winter months in areas east of I-35 to Georgia and other parts of the southeastern U.S.

"Another management scenario involves those who have lighter-weight calves, from 400 to 500 pounds in May," Rouquette said. "They can turn these calves onto pastures such as Tifton 85 or other high-quality Bermuda grass pastures, or onto summer annual forages."  He noted that one problem with this last strategy is that cattle performance in terms of average daily gain during July-August often declines because the nutritive value of warm-season grasses declines and high summer temperatures stress cattle.

 "Of course, if we have another summer of drought like in 2011, then there has to be an alternative strategy," Rouquette said. "But keeping the possibility open of holding onto calves longer or buying calves for stockers if there is rain and good forage availability means opportunity for producers to make more money this year."  

Rouquette emphasized the markets always have the trump card in management scenarios.  "The price paid for 400- to 600-pound calves in 2012 could make it beneficial to sell them at that weight," he said. "The idea is to remain flexible and ready to adjust to changing conditions, including markets, and not to be locked into one stocking strategy or another. With a strategic management plan, one can decide to wean early, wean late, wean and sell, wean and retain and so on.

"For 40 years, Monte has conducted one of the longest, continuous series of studies evaluating productivity, persistence and quality of forage varieties and related cattle performance," Long said.  In-depth information on these studies can be found at http://overton.tamu.edu/center-publications.