Fall Calving

The fall is a busy time for many cattle producers in the state as preparation begins for fall calving season. The following provides some considerations when choosing a fall-calving season:

Advantages

  • “October is typically the driest month of the year making for a good time to calve,” said Landon Marks, Alabama Extension Animal Science and Forage Regional Extension Agent.
  • Cooler temperatures in the fall also typically make calving and rebreeding easier.
  • Fall calves typically are marketed the first week of the following August. This is beneficial to cattlemen because the South can provide feedlots with calves at a time when most of the country cannot and they typically will receive a higher price.
  • Fall-born calves in the Southeast tend to have higher weaning weights than spring and summer-born calves said Marks.

Disadvantages

  • Calving in the fall will typically create a higher cost of production because of the lack of available forages.
    • Fall calves will have higher feed costs for hay and supplemental feeds said Johnny Gladney Alabama Extension animal scientist.
  • “Nutrient demands of beef females are generally highest in the first few months after calving,” said Marks. “Cows calving in the fall normally need more winter supplementation than spring-calving females.”
  • “Although spring-born heifers are often lighter at weaning than fall-born heifers, post-weaning gains and body condition scores at breeding are higher for spring-born calves than fall-born calves,” said Marks.

Preparing for Fall Calving

Fall calving takes year-long preparation.

Attending educational meetings hosted by cattlemen’s associations, farmers federations and Extension and keeping the cows’ body condition as close to 5 as possible are two of the best ways to prepare for fall calving said Gladney.

It is also important to remember to review gestation tables and to make sure the bull is with the cows at the right time.

“December, January and February will be the breeding months for a fall calving season lasting from September to November,” said Marks.

If using an artificial insemination, AI, program, it is best to use a timed AI program. This makes sure cows and heifers are synched together so they can all be breed in one day. It is also important to use a proven bull.

Remember to have a good forage program as the backbone of any cow-calf operation because grazing management is crucial to success said Marks.

“Be prepared for calving season,” said Gladney. “Have a vet/client relation because there is going to be a situation that you can’t handle and know when you need to call the vet.”

Other Tips and Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • It is important to make sure cows are in the proper body condition during the calving season (5 or above).
  • Producers need to stay educated on Expected Progeny Differences, EPDs. “Look at EPDs and make sure you’re not breeding high birth weights,” said Gladney. High birth weights can cause calving difficulty.
  • During calving, make sure cows are being check twice daily for signs of any calving difficulty and be able to move them into a working facility so they can be treated properly said Marks.
  • “A mistake made by cattleman calving in any time of the year is record keeping,” said Marks. “You cannot improve what has not been measured.”

Whether you calve in the fall or the spring, it is more important to have a specific calving season.

“Calving is the busiest time of the year in most cases on a cow-calf operation, so make sure you are choosing a calving season that fits your personal life schedule as well,” said Marks.

For More Information

For any questions regarding fall calving contact your local Alabama Extension Animal Science and Forage Regional Agent.

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