Selecting cattle calving seasons and weaning

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Selecting cattle calving seasons and weaning

Over the last two-decade to three-decade period, the beef industry has made great use of genetic selection tools to improve economically important traits. Much of that improvement is due to the implementation and use of expected progeny differences EPDs.

Traditionally, since beef producers are paid for their animals on the basis of weight, or in some cases by the merit of animal carcasses, most EPDs reported in breed association sire summaries involve growth traits and carcass traits.

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Several studies have shown that approximately 2 percent to 4 percent of all beef calves born in the U. Calving difficulties can occur with all beef females but is primarily a problem in first-calf heifers. The economic losses due to calving difficulty are well documented. Some of the direct economic consequences of calving difficulty include injuries to calves and females and the loss of calves and females.


Additional economic losses result from things such as extended calving seasons, open females, decreased weaning weights and increased labor costs.

Many factors can play a role in causing calving difficulty including gestation length, calf gender, female pelvic area, calf shape, calving season, calf presentation, breed effects, nutrition, etc.

Selecting cattle calving seasons and weaning

However, the single factor that contributes most to calving difficulty is calf birthweight. As calf birthweight increases, so does the level of calving difficulty and the percentage of heifers requiring calving assistance. There is no question that calving difficulty is a great expense to cow-calf operations.

As producers select bulls to use on first-calf heifers and small, younger cows, they should consider EPDs that assist in preventing and diminishing calving difficulties in beef cattle herds.

The study included approximately 2, producers from 24 of the leading cow-calf states. Approximately 90 percent of all U. One component of the study was to assess the need of beef producers to purchase bulls or semen to breed replacement heifers and the criteria used to select the bulls or semen.

Approximately 40 percent of cow-calf operations indicated a need to purchase bulls or semen for breeding replacement heifers. Those operations were asked to rank bull or semen selection factors by level of importance. Calving ease EPD was ranked most important, second-most important and third-most important by 37 percent, 19 percent and 5 percent of operations, respectively.

Thirty-nine percent 39 percent of operations did not consider calving ease EPDs as an important factor in selecting bulls or semen for breeding replacement heifers. Another bull or semen selection factor noted in the study was birthweight EPDs. Birthweight EPDs were ranked most important, second-most important and third-most important by 12, 28 and 7 percent of operations, respectively.

Fifty-three percent of the operations did not consider birthweight EPDs as being important in selecting bulls or semen for breeding replacement heifers.

Calving ease as a selection criterion has been recommended for some time and has been successfully used by many producers. However, considering the results from the NAHMS study, EPDs to reduce the incidence and impact of calving difficulty are not being used to their full potential.

Following is a description, discussion and example of how to interpret and use calving ease EPD direct and maternal and birthweight EPD. Larger values indicate greater calving ease larger percentage of unassisted births in first-calf heifers.

In the example presented in Table 1, Bull No.Weaning and weaning management are the most effective tools to manipulate important factors in beef cattle management. These factors include the breeding efficiency and fertility of the cow herd, feed utilisation, animal behaviour, future carcase merits of steers and .

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