Performance Evaluation of Cow Herd

September 17, 2019

Weaning is a stressful process on cattle as well as the producers and too much stress has a negative impact on performance. However proper management can reduce much of the stress and lead to better performance and yield higher profits. Effective methods are proven to reduce stress on cattle an example is fence line weaning, this allows calves to have contact with their dams across the fence and has shown decreased weaning stress. This method provides a sense of security and can reduce the amount of bawling since they are still in close to one another. Nutrition is another important factor in weaning management. A proper nutrition plan can set the stage for success for the rest of the calf’s life. Always provide access to clean, fresh water in an easily accessible location. Provide free choice access to grass or quality grass hay and introduce a grain supplement at a low level to allow the rumen to acclimate to this new feed source. This allows the calf to learn to eat from a bunk and become more comfortable with people and surroundings. A good health program is also essential to successful weaning and individual situations can determine which protocols producers should utilize. Have a good relationship with your veterinarian and let them provide recommendations.
This is also a great time to evaluate the cow herd, because it is difficult to manage what is not measured. Individual calves and their dams may be evaluated using adjusted 205-d weaning weights. Adjusted 205-d weaning weight allows fair comparison to be made by adjusting out calf age and age of dam. To calculate adjusted 205-day weaning weight use the following formula and table. This will allow producers to build detailed production data on individual cows and make management decisions on an individual level. For total cow herd evaluation weaning weight per cow exposed can determine cow-calf productivity. For this measurement take the sum of all calf weaning weights and divide by the number of cows exposed to breeding, this measurement can be used when birthdate and birth weight are unknown.

Adj. 205-d WW = (WW-BW/ wean age) x 205 + BW + age of dam Adj. factor
BIF Guidelines for Uniform Beef Improvement Programs. 2010

Age of Dam at Birth Weight Weaning weight
birth of Calf Male Female
2 +8 +60 +54
3 +5 +40 +36
4 +2 +20 +18
5-10 0 0 0
11 and older +3 +20 +18

Following weaning cows nutritional demand is at its lowest and evaluating body condition score (BCS) is another useful management tool. Data collected provides valuable information to determine supplemental nutrition or forage allocation to keep cows in proper condition. This is also a great time to conduct a pregnancy check, vaccinate, deworm, evaluate for lameness, udder problems, as well as disposition.
Cattle handling facilities can also be evaluated during the fall, a well-designed facility will make handling more efficient and reduce stress and injuries for both livestock and producers. Cattle build upon previous experiences in working facilities, what we need to do as producers is learn what causes cattle to balk and try our best to eliminate any distractions. A good way to prevent cattle from balking in the alley is to have solid sided alleys; this completely removes visual distractions from the outside and prevents animals from trying to return to the group. This provides only one way for the cattle to escape.
When upgrading or designing a new working facility; first, visit other operations when working cattle to see how different equipment and designs work. Second, design the new facility to have enough pens to sort cattle multiple directions. Third, make the lead-up alley long enough to hold at LEAST 3 cows so that there will be a continuous flow of cattle into the chute. Most producers comment that time and labor is the largest limiting factor to working cattle, if facilities are designed to safely and efficiently increase flow of cattle, time and labor can be reduced. If considering building or redesigning working facilities contact your local MU Livestock Specialist for recommendations on space requirements for holding pens, crowding pens, and sorting alleys.
For more information contact Daniel Mallory at 573-985-3911 (malloryd@missouri.edu