Weaning Time: What Data are You Collecting

The information you obtain at weaning time can be the most crucial part of a cattleman’s livelihood. My daughter recently became involved in the registered Black Angus cattle industry and understands the learning curve on the different data points necessary to submit is vital. This does not exclude the data points that every commercial cattle producer should retrieve at weaning time and throughout the year when applicable. Important data points include measurements on both the cow and weaned calf.

Weaning weights are important and typically collected between 120-280 days of age. These weights can then be adjusted to a 205-day weight which is the standard for production in the American Angus Association. Average and range of weaning weights of calves are an indicator of cow milking ability and the genetic ability for growth. The goal for beef producers is rapid early growth and moderation at maturity. Finding those genetics that excels in growth traits, but moderate mature cow size can assist any cattle producer in financial success. Mature cow size is a key economic driver in cow/calf production and thus is important to the maternal weaned calf value which helps a producer realize economic gains and losses. I suggest documenting the cow’s mature weight, height and body condition as a score (BCS) at the time of weaning.

Weaning time is also an excellent time to collect and analyze some important information for accessing herd reproductive efficiency. Important pieces of information are the number and percentage of calves weaned, age at weaning, and distribution of ages as related to weight, average, and range of weaning weights of calves, and the percentage of pregnant cows. The number and percentage of calves weaned give producers an indicator of the herd’s past reproductive performance and indicate places for improvement or monitoring. Herds with a low percentage of calves weaned indicate problems in one of three areas. First, it may be a function of too many open cows. This would indicate a general fertility problem with either the bull or cows. The cause of infertility may be nutritional, physiological, genetic, or disease-based. Second, it could be the result of too many calves dying within 24 hours of birth. High calf losses during calving time are usually caused by dystocia (calving difficulty), weather conditions, or lack of assistance at birth. Finally, high calf losses between birth and weaning indicate a non-reproductive problem. Usually, these losses result from disease problems such as scours or pneumonia. Reproductive management is the key to a successful cow/calf operation.

Analysis of where an operations program is at weaning gives producers enough time to make changes or improvements before the next calving and breeding seasons. From an industry perspective, how we manage our calf crop, pre-weaning, weaning, and post-weaning, can have dramatic effects on economic viability, consumer acceptance, and end-product quality. Commercial producers with interest in Angus genetics are encouraged to visit the team at Corder and Associates as we share in admiration of the cattle industry and “Live the Life we Sell”. Ultimately we hope to preserve economic vitality through genetics for future generations to come.

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