Cow-Calf Survey Shows Room to Improve Breeding Season Management

saskcalf3Results from the first Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey show there’s room to tighten up the breeding season on the majority of cow-calf operations from B.C. to Manitoba.

The Beef Cattle Research Council and Western Beef Development Centre have published some production findings from the project (find them in a BCRC blog post here.) The questionnaire, which was distributed last fall and winter, was designed to help beef researchers understand common practices on cow-calf operations and provide producers with benchmarks to evaluate their herd performance. It was modeled after the “Alberta Beef Herd Analysis,” last conducted in 1998.

In total, 411 responses were received, representing just over 76,000 cows.

Here are some of the highlights (as noted on the BCRC site):

  • The average cow-to-bull ratio of 25-1 and breeding season length of 93 days were almost unchanged from the last Alberta survey. Only 24 percent of respondents achieved the recommended 63 day breeding season target.
  • The conception rate for all females was 92.8 percent, down from 95.6 percent in Alberta in 1998. The average open rate was 7 percent for cows and 10 percent for heifers.
  • There’s been a shift toward later calving. 36 percent of respondents start calving in March. Around 34 percent start calving in January or February. In 1998, the majority were calving in February.
  • 55 percent of females, on average, calved in the first 21 days, an improvement from 48 percent in the 1998 survey. Just over 40 percent of respondents achieved the target of 60 percent or more of females calving in the first 21 days.
  • 19 percent of respondents regularly body condition score their females and 91 percent vaccinate.
  • 47 percent test their winter feed for quality, and 80 percent of those use the test results to balance rations.

The survey was supported by the provincial producer organizations, the provincial agriculture departments, the Beef Cattle Research Council, Canfax and the Western Beef Development Centre. They hope to conduct the research every five years.

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