FEED COSTS by ghkgkyyt



Case Studies of Wyoming Producers

Gary J. May, Larry W. Van Tassell, Michael A. Smith, James W. Waggoner

                                                                         October 1999
Research Associate Gary J. May and Professor Larry W. VanTassell, with the Department of
Agricultural and Applied Economics
Professor Michael A. Smith and Associate Professor James W. Waggoner, with the Depart-
ment of Renewable Resources

This research was funded by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Grant 96-063.

Editor: Diana Marie Hill-Chavez, College of Agriculture, Office of Communications and Technology
Graphic Artist: Tana Stith, College of Agriculture, Office of Communications and Technology

Trade or brand names used in this publication are used only for the purpose of educational information. The information given herein is supplied
with the understanding that no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement information of products by the Agricultural Research Service,
Federal Extension Service, or State Cooperative Extension Service is implied. Nor does it imply approval of products to the exclusion of others
which may also be suitable.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Glen Whipple, Director, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

Persons seeking admission, employment, or access to programs of the University of Wyoming shall be considered equally without regard to race,
color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political belief, disability, veteran status, and marital or familial status. Persons with disabilities who
require alternative means for communication or program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact their local UW
Extension Office. To file a complaint, write the UW Employment Practices/Affirmative Action Office, University of Wyoming, P.O. Box 3434,
Laramie, Wyoming 82071-3434.
Introduction                                   treatments) of grazing systems in the
                                               Nebraska Sandhills. Alternative winter
Beef producers are always under pressure to
                                               treatments included grazing winter range,
reduce production costs and still deliver a
                                               subirrigated meadow, and meadow hay.
consistent, high-quality product. Winter-
                                               Spring treatments included grazing
feed represents a significant proportion of
                                               meadow hay and new growth subirrigated
total operating costs for a livestock opera-
                                               meadow. Grazing subirrigated meadow
tion in the Northern Plains and the Inter-
                                               during the winter and spring, rather than
mountain West. Simonds (1990) deter-
                                               feeding hay, increased returns by $50 to
mined that hay costs accounted for up to
                                               $90 per cow.
70 percent of total costs on a large Utah
ranch.                                         Calving season for Wyoming cow/calf
                                               operators typically runs between late
Efforts to reduce winter feeding costs have
                                               February and middle April; however, the
centered on extending the grazing season
                                               calving season providing the closest match
while reducing hay and supplemental
                                               between animal nutritional requirements
feeding (Clark et al., 1997, Adams et al.,
                                               and nutrient availability from standing
1994, and D’Souza et al., 1990). A low cost
                                               forage starts around May or June in Wyo-
method of extending grazing is to shift the
                                               ming (Younglove, 1998). Delaying calving
timing of the reproductive cycle to syn-
                                               season by 30 to 120 days represents a
chronize peak cow nutritional requirements
                                               monumental shift in management philoso-
with peak nutrient availability in range
                                               phy and affects most aspects of livestock
forage (Adams et al., 1996). Clark et al.
                                               operations. Producers undertaking such a
(1997) measured forage intake and hay
                                               change will inevitably experience unex-
feeding on an experimental herd, separated
                                               pected problems, as well as favorable
into March and June calving in the Ne-
                                               results. Benefits captured by changing
braska Sandhills, and found that June
                                               calving season and winter feeding programs
calving reduced hay feeding by 1.5 tons per
                                               vary depending upon forage resources,
                                               climate, and other characteristics of indi-
Other methods of reducing winter feeding       vidual operations.
costs include alternative haying and forage
                                               To help producers anticipate risks or
systems. Simonds (1990) found that forage
                                               potential problems associated with chang-
costs could be reduced by 48 percent when
                                               ing calving season, a group of agriculturists
alternatives to hay were used. After compar-
                                               who previously converted from early to late
ing alternative feeding systems, D’souza et
                                               calving were interviewed. As a result of the
al. (1990) found that late fall grazing and
                                               interviews, case studies were developed to
early spring grazing were more profitable
                                               document the production practices of these
than harvesting and feeding hay, even
                                               operations and identify potential benefits
though total dry matter production was
                                               and problems associated with late calving.
lower. Adams et al. (1994) compared six
                                               The operations featured as case studies were
combinations (three winter with two spring

    selected to represent a variety of ranch sizes    calving season. Likewise, alternative mar-
    and management strategies.                        keting strategies could be considered
                                                      independent of calving season.
    Reduced winter feeding costs are the
    primary benefit of late calving. Alternative      Case studies were reviewed by featured
    winter feeding strategies, therefore, were        producers to ensure their management
    evaluated for each operation. Lower winter-       practices were accurately represented.
    time nutritional requirements for a cow           Concepts presented in these case studies are
    calving in May or June increase the op-           the views of the individual ranch owners or
    tional forages suitable for winter grazing.       managers and do not necessarily represent
    Many of the winter feeding techniques             opinions of the University of Wyoming or
    suggested to lower wintering costs, how-          the authors of this study.
    ever, could be used independent of the

    Kelley Land and Cattle Company of Wyoming

    Kelley Land and Cattle Company of                 garrison creeping foxtail. Hay is harvested
    Wyoming (KLCC-WY) is a family owned               on 2,000 acres, and yields range from ½ to
    ranching corporation and headquarters are         3 tons per acre.
    located south of Saratoga. Three genera-
                                                      The breeding herd was increased from 700
    tions of the Kelley and O’Neill families
                                                      to 2,000 mother cows between 1990 and
    have run cattle and sheep in four other
                                                      1997. Breeds include Red Angus, Hereford,
    states for more than 60 years. Kelley
                                                      Angus, Gelbveih, and some Barzona
    O’Neill is a shareholder in KLCC-WY and
                                                      composites. Average mature cow size is
    Mike Crimmins is the ranch manager.
                                                      approximately 1,050 pounds.
    Seven full-time employees operate the
    ranch.                                            Climate
                                                      The elevation of the ranch ranges between
    Resource Base
                                                      6,900 and 7,800 feet. The growing season
    The ranch comprises approximately 50,000
                                                      is typically 60 to 80 days. According to the
    federal, state, and private lease acres located
                                                      National Climatic Data Center in Saratoga,
    in the North Platte River Valley south,
                                                      long-term annual precipitation averages
    west, and north of Saratoga. Federal lease
                                                      10.5 inches. Precipitation is higher (15 to
    acreage includes both Bureau of Land
                                                      19 inches) on the higher elevations of the
    Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest
                                                      ranch west of Saratoga and Pennock Moun-
    Service (USFS) permits. The ranch has
                                                      tain. May is normally the wettest month of
    6,000 acres of flood irrigated pasture, and
                                                      the year, averaging 1.25 inches of precipita-
    most of the ranch’s total carrying capacity
                                                      tion. January is typically the coldest month
    comes from haying and grazing irrigated
                                                      of the winter, with a normal low of 10
    land. Major plant species found on irri-
                                                      degrees Fahrenheit and a high of 33 degrees
    gated land include brome, timothy, and

Fahrenheit. According to Crimmins, the
first winter storm of the year usually occurs
near the end of October. Significant snow
accumulation does not typically take place
until the end of November. Snow rarely
accumulates to more than 1 foot and
usually blows into drifts.

Calving Practices
Starting in the middle to late 1980s,
O’Neill family members operated a ranch         Photo 1. This mother cow watches her newborn calf.
in Minnesota and began shifting lambing
                                                March to June, cows are in an earlier stage
dates from January through March to April
                                                of pregnancy during the cold winter
through May. The goal was to maintain
                                                months. Consequently, winter nutritional
production with less effort and expense.
                                                requirements are lower and cows can better
They became interested in late calving after
                                                afford to lose body condition than those
attending the 1991 Range Beef Cow
                                                bred to calve earlier. According to O’Neill,
Symposium where Gregg Simonds, then
                                                body condition scores should vary through-
manager of Deseret Land and Livestock
                                                out the year. Capitalizing on the energy
near Woodruff, Utah, presented 12 years of
                                                stored in fat reserves accumulated during
cost and production data that compared
                                                the summer, rather than feeding cows
March and April calving dates.
                                                enough nutrients to maintain a constant
Dieter Greiner, a former KLCC-WY                body condition throughout the winter, is
manager, introduced Kelley O’Neill and          more economical. Body condition is
Mike Crimmins to Dick Diven, a consult-         allowed to drop from an average of 5.0 in
ing nutritionist and educator from Arizona      the fall after weaning to as low as 3.5, while
in 1993. Diven convincingly suggested that      grazing relatively low-quality standing feed
winter supplemental feeding costs could be      residue in January and February. Body
reduced if calving were delayed into the        condition scores increase to 5.0 by May
growing season when maximum nutrients           and June calving time, as the cows graze
could be stock harvested to meet require-       abundant, high-quality, and actively grow-
ments of both lactation and weight gain         ing spring and early summer forage. The
prior to breeding.                              goal of KLCC-WY is to maintain a produc-
KLCC-WY’s calving season was shifted            tive, profitable breeding herd without
from February and March to May and June         feeding hay during a normal winter.
in 1994. The purpose of late calving was to     Developing a cow herd that remains
reduce winter feed expenditures by decreas-     productive under these conditions requires
ing the need for substitute or “hauled out”     selecting replacement stock with biological
feed per cow. When calving is delayed from

                                                      therefore, hay production on the ranch will
                                                      continue as insurance against unusually
                                                      harsh winter weather and as a feed source
                                                      for overwintering calves. KLCC-WY
                                                      currently produces 2,500 to 2,800 tons of
                                                      hay each year on 2,000 acres. Once the late
                                                      calving system is fully established,
                                                      Crimmins anticipates reducing harvested
                                                      hay production to approximately 1,500 to
                                                      1,700 tons per year. Lower yielding ground
Photo 2. Cows and young calves graze on summer        will be taken out of hay production and
                                                      either grazed or cut and raked into wind-
       characteristics that fit management objec-     rows for winter feeding. Harvested hay not
       tives. KLCC-WY is currently improving          required for winter feeding will be retained
       the late calving herd by culling cows that     for subsequent years or sold as market
       have difficulty or are slow to rebreed after   conditions and management dictate.
       enduring the winter on a minimal amount
                                                      Table 1 briefly summarizes production
       of feed. The breeding period is 60 days.
                                                      statistics from the records of KLCC-WY.
       Fourteen percent of heifer calves are se-
                                                      Average calving and weaning dates were the
       lected as replacements each year, and Red
                                                      mid-point of a 10-day period during which
       Angus replacement bulls are purchased
                                                      most calves were born or weaned.
       from a seed stock producer.
                                                      Difficulty maintaining conception rates has
       During the 1994-1995 winter, mature cows
                                                      emerged as a potential problem with June
       were fed hay for only 15 days. Many bred
                                                      calving. The conception rate for first calf
       cows purchased during the cattle price cycle
                                                      heifers appears to be declining; however,
       lows in 1996 were due to calve in February
                                                      Crimmins does not believe this trend is a
       or March 1997. During the winter and
                                                      result of late calving. The 95 percent
       spring, these cows were fed hay to maintain
                                                      conception rate that occurred in 1993
       body condition and to optimize lactation
                                                      corresponded with the year breeding was
       and rebreeding. Crimmins expects to
                                                      shifted and the heifers had more time to
       achieve zero hay feeding by the winter of
                                                      develop before breeding. Crimmins sug-
       1999-2000. By that time, the retained
                                                      gested the drop in conception rates of first
       breeding females should be acclimated, and
                                                      calf heifers from 83 to 64 percent between
       those biological types that do not fit
                                                      1995 and 1996 resulted from a crop of
       KLCC-WY’s environment and manage-
                                                      heifers with poorly developed reproductive
       ment protocol will have been culled.
                                                      tracts. This phenomenon is likely unrelated
       Crimmins admits it is unrealistic to expect    to calving season.
       cows to endure every winter without hay;

Table 1. Selected cow and calf production statistics for KLCC-WY.
                                                 1993       1994         1995         1996
Average calving date                             4/1        5/15         4/26         4/20
Average weaning date                             11/19      11/21        10/12        10/30
Average daily gain (suckling calves)             1.63       1.74         1.79         1.5
Pounds weaned per cow                            361        355          273          349
Calves weaned per cow                            80%        87%          73%          95%
Conception rate (first calf heifers)             95%        87%          83%          64%
Conception rate (second calf cows)               NA         NA           80%          90%
Conception rate (third calf heifers)             NA         NA           71%          91%
Conception rate (other cows)                     NA         NA           91%          95%

Winter Feeding Practices                           ciencies indicated by the forage analysis.
In December, cattle are separated into five        Forage is seldom rendered inaccessible due
groups: first and second calf heifers, mature      to snow cover, which rarely accumulates to
cows bred to start calving May 1, mature           more than 12 inches and usually blows off.
cows bred to start calving June 1, yearling        Cows typically begin losing body condition
calves, and replacement heifers. Yearling          in January, and start gaining it back by
calves and replacement heifers are fed hay         mid-March. Forage quality is similar during
throughout the winter, and young heifers           both the reconditioning and de-condition-
and early-bred cows are the first to get hay       ing periods. According to Crimmins, a
when winter grazing forage is depleted. The        cow’s body condition improves during the
late-bred herd generally will endure the           spring before green grass is available due to
winter without hay.                                improved weather conditions. Currently,
Cows primarily graze hay aftermath during          the same mineral supplement formulation
winter. Herds of approximately 500 head            is used year round.
are placed on 250- to 400-acre sections for        Land taken out of hay production is
a 10-day to two-week grazing period. Hay           utilized for winter grazing. Pastures grazed
is not fed daily as a substitute ration except     early in the growing season with regrowth
during extreme weather conditions, but it          accumulating to more than 1-foot high is
is normally fed intermittently as a standing       cut in late summer, piled into windrows,
forage supplement. Forage samples are              and left for winter grazing. According to
tested frequently, and supplements are             Crimmins, cutting and windrowing tall
provided according to the nutrient defi-           grass results in greater utilization than if the

                                                       due to reduced capital investments in hay
                                                       equipment and lower maintenance costs.
                                                       Providing a dry location for the cows to
                                                       calve is another problem associated with
                                                       the transition to a late calving season.
                                                       KLCC-WY flood irrigates all pastures in
                                                       May and June. The current pasture and hay
                                                       field layout has been frustrating to manage-
                                                       ment, as they try to avoid missing water
                                                       turns on the meadow while also trying not
Photo 3. These calves have recently been weaned.
                                                       to drown calves.
       forage were left standing. Pastures with less   The solution to this problem appears to be
       regrowth are left standing for winter           building additional fencing and developing
       grazing.                                        stock water on dry range. For example,
                                                       KLCC-WY has a 5,000-acre Bureau of
       Problems Associated with Late                   Land Management (BLM) lease that is
       Season Calving                                  connected with deeded pasture. The lease
       One problem KLCC-WY encountered                 runs from May 15 to June 25. Although
       with May and June calving is conflicting        Crimmins would like to calve part of the
       labor demands between irrigating hay            herd on this range, 5,000 acres is too large
       ground and calving. A large amount of           because cows are spread out, making it
       available labor during calving season is used   difficult to monitor calving. Crimmins is
       to identify cow/calf pairs and collect calf     negotiating with the BLM, so he can fence
       birth weights to monitor productivity           this range into two 2,500-acre sections.
       under the modified regimen. This conflict
       was partially resolved by incorporating hay     Under the later calving system, cows are
       land irrigation in haying contracts.            calving when they would normally be
                                                       placed on the summer mountain range, up
       Since 1993, all labor and machinery used        to 25 miles away from the ranch. Clearly,
       for mowing, raking, baling, and stacking        moving the herd at calving time imposes
       has been provided by two to three indepen-      additional stress on dams and newborn
       dent hay contractors. More recently, these      calves. A possible solution to this problem
       contracts have been expanded to include         is to move late-bred cows (those calving
       harrowing, fertilizing, and irrigating.         after June 1) to the summer range during
       KLCC-WY kept two tractors for feeding,          May, one month prior to calving. Early
       and the rest of the ranch-owned haying          calving cows will calve at the ranch before
       equipment was sold. Crimmins believes           moving to summer range.
       that in addition to diminished labor
       requirements, cost benefits were realized       Crimmins acknowledges a potential for
                                                       problems when calving on summer range.

He is most concerned about predators and        income. According to O’Neill, calves born
calving difficulty. Crimmin’s summer range      in May and June are reaching market
is located in the mountains west of             weight in March and April, the seasonal
Saratoga, where coyotes, mountain lions,        peak in fed cattle prices. Before the change
and bears could possibly prey on newborn        in calving season, calves were hitting the
calves. However, antelope, deer, and elk        fed cattle market in January and February
also are abundant in the area, and              at prices well below the seasonal peak. Due
Crimmins believes predators will select         to improved forage quality for lactation and
newborn wildlife rather than calves.            decreased cold stress, warm weather calving
                                                may increase the rate of gain prior to
As summer range is located up to 25 miles
                                                weaning, reducing the difference in wean-
away, employees cannot frequently monitor
                                                ing weights between early and late born
the calving process and provide assistance
in case of calving difficulty. To minimize
this problem, only cows with at least a         Weaned calves’ average daily gain during
three-year history of unassisted calving will   the winter months is approximately 0.75
be selected to calve on the summer range.       pounds. Calves are fed hay during the
                                                winter, and during the summer they are
Marketing Implications of Late                  placed on rangeland where average daily
Calving                                         gain is approximately 1.8 pounds. Yearlings
Changing calving seasons did not signifi-       enter the feedlot weighing approximately
cantly alter the marketing strategy for         750 pounds.
KLCC-WY. Under both the old and new
calving system, calves are weaned in Octo-      Future Projections
ber and November and retained as yearling       O’Neill has reported resistance to later
stockers to be grazed on rangeland their        calving in other operations within the
second summer. Cattle are then placed in a      company. Ranch managers and creditors
feedlot in October of the following year        have been reluctant to accept reduced
and marketed for slaughter the next March.      weaning weights. An important factor in
KLCC-WY began retaining ownership               the success of a late calving season is the
through the feedlot at the same time the        support of essential stake holders.
calving season was switched.
                                                Crimmins is optimistic that KLCC-WY
O’Neill believes that although reduced          can profitably produce quality beef without
weaning weights may have an adverse effect      feeding hay to mature cows through most
on profitability, lighter calves and stockers   winters. O’Neill envisions a cow herd that
typically receive a higher price, which         “can be run like buffalo, harvesting their
softens the impact. Because calves are          own feed, with minimal intervention at
retained through the feedlot at KLCC-WY,        calving.” This will significantly contribute
however, finished weight is the production      to reaching the ranch’s production cost goal
variable having the most impact on net          of $0.50 per pound of beef.

    Deseret Land and Livestock
    Deseret Land and Livestock (DL&L)                regulation. Consequently, DL&L is able to
    operates a cow, calf, and yearling ranch near    divert up to 250-cubic-feet per second to
    Woodruff, Utah, located 20 miles north-          irrigate and fill their reservoir in April and
    west of Evanston, Wyoming. DL&L is a             May. However, when the ranch was pur-
    ranching corporation owned by the Church         chased, the safe capacity of the canal divert-
    of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS).      ing water from the river was only 100-cubic-
    The Church acquired the ranch in 1983.           feet per second. Over a period of five years,
    Ten individuals are employed full-time at        DL&L dredged the canal and filled in areas
    the ranch, five of whom operate the cattle       where the banks were low. Improved irrigat-
    enterprise. Bill Hopkin succeeded Gregg          ing capacity dramatically increased annual
    Simonds as manager in 1992.                      forage production on irrigated land. The
                                                     2001 goal for forage production on the
    Resource Base                                    7,889 acres of irrigated land is 18,000 tons,
    The Woodruff site contains 205,000 acres         compared with 11,500 tons of forage
    of deeded land and 14,000 acres of BLM           produced in 1983.
    leased land. Irrigated lands comprise 7,889
                                                     Big game species also have become an
    acres. An additional 27,000 deeded and
                                                     important source of income for DL&L.
    7,000 leased dry land acres were recently
                                                     Between 25 and 75 percent of net income,
    acquired near Promontory, Utah, for
                                                     depending upon the cattle price cycle, is
    wintering replacement and two-year-old
                                                     derived from the wildlife program. Accord-
    heifers, along with weaned calves retained
                                                     ing to Hopkin, any ranch with reasonably
    as yearlings.
                                                     good rangeland is going to feed wildlife
    DL&L has nearly doubled the cow herd             whether they want to or not. Accepting
    since the LDS church acquired the ranch.         and managing the elk and deer population
    When the ranch was purchased in 1983,            while capitalizing on their economic value,
    the heard consisted of 2,600 cows. By            rather than trying to minimize or prevent
    1998, the herd grew to 5,150 head of             wildlife forage consumption, has been
    mother cows, which are a composite of            profitable. Two full-time biologists manage
    several unidentified breeds. Herd expansion      the wildlife and have developed what
    was possible, in part, because the ranch was     Hopkin believes is the best elk database in
    understocked when it was acquired.               the West. DL&L currently manages 2,000
                                                     head of elk in cooperation with the Utah
    Other improvements have been made to the
                                                     Division of Wildlife Resources. A range of
    ranch. DL&L holds an 1886 water right of
                                                     250 to 1,200 tons of alfalfa is required,
    134-cubic-feet per second from the Bear
                                                     depending on the severity of the winter, to
    River, among the oldest in the district.
                                                     entice the elk to stay on the ranch and
    Under Wyoming water law, holders of pre-
                                                     reduce the risk of destroying neighbors’
    1940 water rights are allowed double their
    adjudicated right while the river is not under

                                                                                                    Deseret Land and Livestock
Under Utah law, DL&L is considered a
Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit,
formerly called a Posted Hunting Unit.
This arrangement allows the state of Utah
to maintain ownership of big game, while
granting DL&L a partnership with the
Division of Wildlife Resources in regulat-
ing herd size and structure by setting
hunting seasons and determining the
number of permits issued each year. The
Division of Wildlife Resources, as a limited   Photo 4. Cows graze on winter pasture.
entry drawing, issues 15 public bull elk
permits, along with cow permits. DL&L          snow and sub-freezing temperatures can
biologists and the Division of Wildlife        render standing forage inaccessible during
Resources meet annually to determine           the winter.
harvest numbers. DL&L retains the rev-
                                               Promontory, where 34,000 acres were
enue from their allocation of permits,
                                               recently obtained, is near the Great Salt
which amounts to nearly $8,500 for each
                                               Lake at the bottom of the Great Basin.
trophy elk. In DL&L’s accounting scheme,
                                               Ranging between 4,200 and 4,600 feet, the
the cost of forage consumed by elk and
                                               elevation is lower and winters are less severe
deer is charged against revenue on a stan-
                                               than those in the Woodruff area. According
dard AUM basis, the same as the cattle
                                               to Hopkin, winter temperatures are gener-
enterprise. The cost of raising an elk,
                                               ally 20 to 30 degrees warmer in Promon-
therefore, can be compared with the cost of
                                               tory than in Woodruff. Promontory is
raising cattle or sheep.
                                               relatively dry compared with Woodruff,
                                               averaging 6 to 10 inches of precipitation,
                                               most of which accumulates during the
The elevation of the Woodruff ranch ranges
                                               spring, fall, and winter.
from 6,300 feet to more than 8,000 feet.
The frost-free growing period is typically     Calving Practices
52 days. Average annual precipitation is 10
                                               Calving season was delayed approximately
inches at lower, 12 inches at intermediate,
                                               15 days, from mid-March to early April
and 20 inches at high elevation areas. Most
                                               starting in 1988. After carefully examining
precipitation is in the form of snow. Win-
                                               the production and nutrient cycle of the
tertime temperatures frequently reach as
                                               forage resources, DL&L management was
low as –30 degrees Fahrenheit and occa-
                                               convinced that calving in April would
sionally dip to –50 degrees Fahrenheit.
                                               provide a better match between cow
Mean monthly temperatures remain below
                                               nutritional requirements and nutrient
freezing from November through March in
                                               availability. This enables the cow herd to be
the Woodruff area. The combination of
                                               maintained throughout the year at lower

     costs. Observing a herd of bison main-            growth was impaired and feed costs were
     tained on the ranch supported this conclu-        high as a result of cold weather. April born
     sion. Bison bulls were kept with the cows         calves are currently born on prior-year
     year round. Calving naturally occurred in         crested wheatgrass or cheatgrass pastures.
     early summer and little intervention was          Because cows are grazing during parturition
     ever required.                                    rather than being fed, newborn calves are
                                                       widely dispersed, reducing the risk of
     To determine when forage availability was
                                                       scours and avoiding mothering problems
     at a maximum, samples were collected
                                                       that frequently occur in a more concen-
     throughout the growing season. Forage
                                                       trated environment. Consequently, later
     availability, measured in pounds of total
                                                       born calves gain weight faster and appear to
     digestible nutrients per acre, increased
                                                       catch up with early born calves.
     rapidly beginning in early May and peaked
     at the end of June. By combining results          When calving season was switched, DL&L
     from forage analysis and National Research        management determined that a low eleva-
     Council nutritional recommendations,              tion area comprised mostly of BLM land
     management determined that calving later          was best suited for calving. The existing
     would increase the cows’ ability to meet          grazing allotment for the first pasture was
     nutritional requirements from grazing             approximately 200 head on 1,611 acres for
     resources.                                        45 days beginning in middle May. Manage-
                                                       ment submitted a proposal to the BLM to
     Management was nervous about delaying
                                                       allow 3,000 head on this pasture for three
     calving season too far, because they knew it
                                                       days, beginning in early April, before new
     would be difficult to shift back if profitabil-
                                                       growth occurred. The cows then would be
     ity was adversely affected. Historical
                                                       rotated to a 3,891-acre pasture for about 10
     weather records for the Rich County area
                                                       days, after which they would continue on
     showed average temperatures increased
                                                       other checker board and private range
     slowly until around April 5, then increased
                                                       pastures for the remainder of the calving
     rapidly until summer. In addition, calving
                                                       season. The range conservationist in charge
     in early April would synchronize breeding
                                                       of DL&L’s BLM allotment was initially
     with peak nutrient availability at the end of
                                                       surprised at the proposal but eventually
     June, maximizing conception rates.
                                                       agreed. Hopkin noted that range condi-
     DL&L experienced several benefits from            tions on the affected BLM land have
     later calving. Hopkin admits that earlier         improved since making changes in utiliza-
     born calves are larger if scours or other         tion methods.
     infectious calf illnesses can be prevented
                                                       Where calving occurs on open range and
     and if all the calves can get a significant
                                                       cows are widely dispersed, Hopkin noted
     amount of colostrum immediately after
                                                       that employees could not easily monitor
     birth. In reality, calves born in March were
                                                       the herd during calving and provide assis-
     typically delivered in a concentrated situa-
                                                       tance when necessary. Through the breed-
     tion where infections spread easily. Calf

                                                                                                       Deseret Land and Livestock
ing and replacement program, DL&L
reduced the assistance rate of two-year-old
heifers from 45 percent in 1983 to approxi-
mately 12 percent by 1997.
The reduction in the assistance rate is
primarily explained by an increase in the
minimum size of the pelvic area of one-
year-old heifers from 130 cm2 in 1985 to
170 cm2 in 1991. According to Hopkin, a
heifer with a larger pelvic height is more
                                                Photo 5. Elk search for forage during winter.
likely to deliver a calf without difficulty.
Much of the genetic pelvic size increase can
                                                gathered and measured for pelvic area, and
be attributed to using Beef Master bulls
                                                the largest pelvic area heifers are selected as
starting in 1986. Beef Master bulls contain
                                                replacements. Hopkin acknowledges that
Bos indicus blood and have a relatively
                                                frame size creep (enlarging cow frame size
large pelvic area per pound of body weight.
                                                with each generation) is a risk with this
However, use of these bulls was terminated
                                                type of selection. Currently, average
in the early 1990s because of characteristics
                                                weights of mature cows with a body condi-
incompatible with the overall management
                                                tion score of five are 1,050 to 1,150
objective. Bos indicus breed types are
                                                pounds. Replacement bulls are selected
generally later maturing and have difficulty
                                                from mothers who have raised a satisfactory
breeding under the DL&L management
                                                calf for seven years and are nine years or
scheme. In addition, management found
                                                older. Hopkin commented, “The only
Bos indicus breeds were relatively thin-
                                                pedigree these bulls have is that their
skinned with short hair coats and carried
                                                mothers are still in a herd with unforgiving
less body condition into winter. These traits
reduced their ability to satisfy winter
nutritional requirements on poor-quality
                                                Winter Feeding Implications of
feed, which is an important component of
                                                Later Calving
the late calving objective.
                                                The economic benefit of delaying calving
Since the early 1990s, DL&L has been            season is captured, in part, by lowering
raising replacement bulls and moving            winter feeding costs. Gregg Simonds
toward English breeds, which seem to have       estimated that up to 70 percent of the costs
a naturally smaller pelvic opening. Through     of maintaining a cow are for winter feed.
the replacement bull and heifer selection       Late calving and early weaning allowed
program, DL&L maintained the large              DL&L to drastically reduce the amount of
pelvic area and low assistance rate. When       hay harvested. In 1983 when the ranch was
the replacement decision is made each           acquired, 9,000 tons of hay was the harvest
spring, all potential replacement heifers are   goal. Currently, DL&L employees are

Deseret Land and Livestock

                                                                                    typical winter rotation is 2,000 cows on a
                                                                                    960-acre swamp pasture for 60 days. The
                                                                                    meadow where forage is stockpiled typically
                                                                                    yields 2 tons of grazable forage per acre.
                                                                                    Standing forage grazed during the winter is
                                                                                    generally poor quality, averaging 4 to 5
                                                                                    percent crude protein and 50 percent
                                                                                    TDN. Two to 5 pounds of alfalfa per head
                                                                                    is fed daily to cows grazing on stockpiled
                                                                                    forage; the alfalfa serves as a protein and
                             Photo 6. These cows are cleaning up windrowed hay.     energy supplement. According to Hopkin,
                                                                                    this diet will not maintain a cow with a
                                    harvesting 1,000 to 1,500 tons of hay, with     body condition score below 4.5 during
                                    the objective of feeding 1,000 tons annu-       bitter weather.
                                    ally to the cow herd. An inventory of 3,000
                                                                                    Quality stock water sources are an impor-
                                    to 3,600 tons is maintained as insurance
                                                                                    tant component of a low-cost winter
                                    against a harsh winter occurring, on aver-
                                                                                    feeding system. When the ranch was
                                    age, every five or more years. Forage pro-
                                                                                    acquired, winter stock water was provided
                                    duced on land taken out of hay production
                                                                                    by chopping a hole in the ice covering a
                                    is used for summer yearling grazing or
                                                                                    canal and forcing cows to drink water at
                                    unharvested for winter grazing by middle-
                                                                                    near freezing temperatures. Wells with
                                    aged cows.
                                                                                    electric pumps were installed, or springs
                                    Cows need to be in good condition as            were developed at several locations, draw-
                                    winter approaches if they are going to          ing water out of the ground at 44 degrees
                                    winter cheaply. Calves are weaned in            Fahrenheit. A drinking trough is main-
                                    September, allowing cows to gain body           tained at the surface of each well that
                                    condition to at least a condition score of      allows the water to be run continuously
                                    five before winter. Body condition scores       with no ice. According to Hopkin, warmer
                                    are monitored during the winter by ran-         drinking water conserves energy by allow-
                                    domly sampling 20 to 30 cows each week.         ing dietary calories to be utilized for body
                                    This allows management to determine             maintenance rather than warming water.
                                    whether the current diet is meeting require-    Hopkin believes warmer drinking water
                                    ments and if additional supplementation is      considerably reduces stress placed on cows
                                    needed.                                         wintering on poor-quality forage and
                                                                                    exposed to harsh weather conditions.
                                    Hopkin believes low intensity, long dura-
                                    tion grazing during the winter best satisfies   First and second calf heifers, along with
                                    cow requirements. Cows are better off if        weaned calves, are wintered at the Promon-
                                    they are moved and herded as little as          tory site. Cattle generally arrive at Promon-
                                    possible during the winter. For example, a      tory in mid-November and are sent back to

Woodruff by May 1. The entire summer            ing for food after they are turned onto
growth at Promontory, which averages            range in the spring.
14,000 to 20,000 AUMs, is stockpiled for
                                                One disadvantage to leaving the hay in
winter consumption. Forage species are
                                                windrows is that meadows containing
primarily crested wheatgrass and cheatgrass.
                                                windrowed hay cannot be irrigated during
A 20 percent protein liquid molasses
                                                the fall. Fall soil moisture has a profound
supplement is provided free choice.
                                                impact on vegetative growth the following
DL&L experimented with alternative              spring. Hopkin believes leaving hay in
winter forage systems. For example, on part     windrows on meadows where fall irrigation
of the hay land, hay is cut and bunch           water is available is not economical. In
raked, then left in windrows for winter         addition, forage losses to wildlife are
grazing. Portable electric fencing is used to   difficult to prevent when hay is left in the
partition off three to seven days worth of      meadows. During the winter, elk are often
feed to ensure proper utilization. Hay left     attracted to hay left in the meadow and can
in windrows is usually cut near Labor Day       destroy the windrows. Forage not con-
and typically yields 6.5 percent crude          sumed by the elk is scattered, trampled into
protein and 58 percent TDN in February.         the ground, and often contaminated with
                                                urine and feces.
Two important advantages of grazing
windrowed hay are reduced labor and fuel        Another important disadvantage of wind-
costs, as the hay is left in the field and      rowed hay is that it cannot be stored from
grazed, rather than baled and stacked and       year to year. DL&L’s winter feeding phi-
then unstacked and fed. According to            losophy is to feed hay only if winter grazing
Hopkin, feeding windrowed hay requires          resources have been depleted or rendered
one-fifth of the labor needed to feed baled     inaccessible. Hay surplus is held in reserve
hay. Another advantage of windrowed hay         for later years. As feeding becomes neces-
is that it more evenly disperses the hay        sary, the oldest hay is fed first to prevent
among the cows. Hopkin noted that when          spoilage. Hay left in windrows has to be
hay bales are cut and piled on the ground,      used whether it is needed or not.
fatter, more aggressive cows consistently
out compete thinner, less aggressive cows       Marketing Implications of Later
for the highest quality and most palatable      Calving
hay. As a result, fatter cows gain condition    The decision to maintain yearlings was a
while thinner cows lose condition. In           by-product of the calving season change.
windrows, higher quality hay is more            Management believed calves weaned 15 to
evenly distributed throughout the meadow,       30 days younger would be 25 to 30 pounds
and less dominant cows are as likely to get     lighter, and marketing these smaller calves
higher quality hay as dominant cows. Cows       would not be profitable. Hopkin noted,
grazing windrows maintain a “grazing            however, that calves born in April weaned
mentality” and are better adapted to forag-     at approximately the same weight as those

     born in March. In addition, late calving        $0.45 per pound. Yearling heifers are to be
     reduced the amount of hay required for the      marketed weighing 830 pounds by October
     breeding herd. This led management to           1 at a production cost of $0.57 per pound.
     evaluate alternative uses for surplus hay. At   The primary reason heifers are significantly
     the prevailing feeder cattle prices, Hopkin     lighter and carry a higher cost is that the
     estimated that allowing yearlings to graze      heaviest heifers are selected as replacements
     meadows formerly used for hay production        and incorporated into the breeding herd.
     was equivalent to selling hay at $90 per
     ton, without a haying cost.                     Conclusion
                                                     According to Hopkin, the goal of a ranch
     Retaining calves led to other benefits. For
                                                     operation should be to maximize profit
     example, the yearling operation created a
                                                     rather than concentrate on a single produc-
     year-long marketing window, allowing
                                                     tion variable such as weaning weights. To
     calves to be sold at prices more favorable
                                                     maximize profit, a manager should under-
     than those received when calves were
                                                     stand the sources of costs as well as rev-
     marketed at weaning in the fall. Marketing
                                                     enues. Keeping accurate production and
     options open to DL&L are fall-weaned
                                                     financial records and continuously evaluat-
     calves, spring or fall yearlings, and fed
                                                     ing resources, such as the forage base and
     cattle. In addition, since forage production
                                                     nutrient curve, help managers reach their
     on the ranch varies sharply from year to
                                                     goals. Each ranch has its own unique
     year, maintaining yearlings allows DL&L
                                                     resource endowment; therefore, specific
     management to easily adjust stocking rates
                                                     calving, harvesting, or utilization practices
     to properly use the varying amount of
                                                     that have been profitable for DL&L may
     annual forage production.
                                                     not be profitable for ranches with a differ-
     The five-year plan developed by DL&L            ent resource base. Hopkin believes the most
     management sets precise production cost         important lesson other operators can learn
     goals to be achieved by 2001. These goals       from DL&L is to question every produc-
     include marketing 950-pound yearling            tion practice to determine whether alterna-
     steers by October 1 at a production cost of     tive methods might increase profitability.

The Stafford-Poston Ranch
The Stafford-Poston Ranch, named after        Calving Practices
the current and original owners, is a cow/    When the Stafford family took over the
calf operation located southeast of           ranch in 1986, they adopted a spring
Riverton, Wyoming. Troy Stafford and his      calving and fall weaning cycle typical of
family purchased the ranch and started a      other operators in the region. In 1991,
herd from scratch in 1986. The ranch          Stafford decided to change calving from
consists of approximately 45,000 deeded       March to June and July. The purpose
and leased acres that support 600 mother      behind this change was that summer
cows. Labor is contributed primarily by one   calving would allow cows to take better
full-time and one part-time family mem-       advantage of high-quality forage during
ber.                                          calving and lactation, while being sustained
The ranch has 400 acres of irrigated land,    on low-quality, grazed forage during the
primarily containing Boziosky Russian         winter, reducing maintenance costs.
wildrye and native western wheatgrass.        Stafford contemplated shifting calving to
Irrigated land is used for harvesting and     summer for three years before actually
marketing Boziosky Russian wildrye seed.      initiating the change. Before moving to
The land is then grazed during winter. Dry    Wyoming, Stafford operated a ranch in
range grasses include Bozoisky and native     Oklahoma that maintained a spring and
species such as western wheatgrass, basin     fall calving herd. Production and financial
wildrye, needle-and-thread, and several       records from this operation revealed that
minor species.                                the fall calving herd was making money
                                              while the spring calving cows consistently
Climate                                       lost money. Stafford compared the forage
Ranch elevation ranges from 5,000 to          nutrient cycle of grasses common to the
8,000 feet. Precipitation averages 7 to 9     Riverton, Wyoming, area with cow nutri-
inches at the lower elevation and 15 inches   ent requirements imposed by the breeding-
in the higher country. Snow rarely accumu-    calving-lactating cycle. From this data he
lates more than 6 inches, and forage acces-   concluded that calving in June would place
sibility is seldom a winter grazing issue.    cows on green grass during lactation when
The growing season is typically 90 days.      nutrient requirements peak and allow dry
January is the coldest month of the year      cows to graze low-quality forage during
with temperatures ranging from an average     winter, reducing the need for hay. However,
low of –2 degrees Fahrenheit to an average    he was uncertain how well calves born in
high of 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Average        early summer would perform. In Okla-
daily high temperatures remain below          homa, he observed that calves born in June
freezing during December and January.         gained weight poorly and commanded very
                                              little in the market. These fears were
                                              alleviated after he read results of a study

                                                        high. Most of the cows purchased to
                                                        replace the herd had calved in August.
                                                        Stafford knew that August was too late for
                                                        calving in this region, because breeding
                                                        would be in November when the weather is
                                                        cold and the grass is in its dormant stage.
                                                        He knew moving calving back two months
                                                        would be difficult but decided to turn bulls
                                                        in with the cows a few weeks after calving
                                                        the first year. Within two years, the calving
Photo 7. Russian wildrye is stockpiled for winter       date for the rest of the herd was successfully
grazing.                                                moved to June and doubts surrounding
                                                        Stafford’s decision had disappeared.
        conducted in Wyoming showing no signifi-
        cant weight difference at 205 days old          Late calving reduced labor costs on
        between calves born in March and those          Stafford’s ranch considerably. In the years
        born in July.                                   since changing to June calving, Stafford has
                                                        not pulled a single calf and has lost only
        Once the decision to shift calving season
                                                        one cow from birthing complications.
        was made, the next step was confronting
                                                        Calves are born on green grass where cows
        biological and economical issues surround-
                                                        are widely dispersed, reducing the risk of
        ing the transition. By 1991, the ranch had
                                                        calf illnesses. Greater dispersion also lowers
        a good set of cows calving in March.
                                                        the chance of mothering problems, result-
        Stafford observed that early calving cows
                                                        ing in less time sorting calves and matching
        were worth more in the market than those
                                                        pairs. Also, it is no longer necessary to
        born later. Rather than turn the bulls out
                                                        monitor calving in cold winter weather.
        three months later and decrease the market
        value of his breeding stock, Stafford de-       One of the benefits Stafford realized from
        cided to capitalize on the difference in        late calving is that replacement stock is less
        value and replace the entire herd with cows     expensive. Rather than retaining heifers,
        already on a late calving and breeding cycle.   replacement stock is purchased in the cull
        Stafford sold his March calving cows to an      cow market. While acknowledging a
        operator in Colorado, and because of a          potential for problems with this approach,
        drought in California, he was able to           Stafford believes many ranchers using a
        purchase late summer calving pairs at lower     more traditional calving season systemati-
        prices. This transaction resulted in an         cally cull cows that work well under his
        average net gain of $200 to $300 per cow.       system. According to Stafford, other
                                                        operators often cut late breeding cows from
        The move to a later calving date was a
                                                        their herd. Frequently, these cows breed late
        decisive move, and the cost of failure was

                                                                                                       Troy Stafford
because they produce too much milk,
resulting in delayed cycling. Stafford
explained, “Cows and heifers are often
culled because they are too good as moth-
ers.” These cows work well in Stafford’s
system. Generally, he will purchase a cow
slightly above slaughter price, harvest a calf
for several years, and sell the cow with a calf
in June at a higher price than what he paid
for the cow.
                                                  Photo 8. Mother cows and their calves consume
The annual replacement rate in Stafford’s
                                                  summer pasture.
herd averages 20 percent. For Stafford, the
ideal replacement is a three-year-old preg-       Winter Feeding
nant cow due in June. He typically buys           The primary benefit Stafford expected from
four-to-seven-year-old, late-bred cows.           late calving was reduced winter feeding
Stafford prefers black cows because he            costs, which was achieved by shifting from
believes the stocker calf market prefers          hay to grazed forage consumption. Under
them. Smaller cows work better than large         the March calving system, cows were fed
cows in Stafford’s system because nutrient        1,000 to 1,500 pounds of alfalfa hay per
requirements are lower and less costly to         cow over the winter. Under the present
purchase and maintain.                            system, each cow receives only 2 to 5
The late calving program is successful, in        pounds of alfalfa per day as a protein and
part, because higher elevation portions of        energy supplement while grazing native
the ranch maintain forage quality through         range. All hay is purchased rather than
breeding season during the late summer            produced on the ranch.
and fall months. Forage quality in other          Stafford credits the success of his late
areas typically drops off considerably in late    calving program to high-quality winter
summer. Breeding on lower quality forage          range. Late calving will not reduce feeding
could reduce conception rates and, there-         costs unless a sufficient quantity of stand-
fore, profitability. Consistent with the low      ing forage is available for winter grazing.
input philosophy, Stafford does not at-           Snow is rarely an accessibility factor. Ridge
tempt to limit breeding and calving to a          tops quickly blow off and southern slopes
narrow time period. He agrees a narrowly          melt off after a snowstorm. Much of the
confined calving period and uniform calves        bottom land contains native basin wildrye
are desirable; however, he believes it is often   that stands above the snow. Sections
not worth the costs incurred to achieve it.       designated for winter grazing are rested
                                                  over the entire growing season and the herd
                                                  is kept together during the winter and
                                                  rotated to different pastures often. Frequent

Troy Stafford

                                                                       acres and evaluated the stand for three years
                                                                       to determine whether it would be viable in
                                                                       their program. Bozoisky Russian wildrye
                                                                       appeared to perform well in forage produc-
                                                                       tion, dormant season nutrient retention,
                                                                       and heartiness. During the next few years,
                                                                       they established 700 acres.

                                                                       Weaning and Marketing Practices
                                                                       Stafford’s goal is to market light stockers in
                Photo 9. Big Horn sheep share winter feed with cows    late winter when few calves are available
                and calves.
                                                                       and prices are higher. Calves are typically
                       rotation ensures the highest quality forage     weaned and sold in early February, weigh-
                       is rationed throughout the winter. After        ing approximately 500 pounds. Yearling
                       cows become acclimated to Stafford’s            operators are often looking for stock at this
                       system, moving cows requires little effort.     time and are willing to pay a premium for
                                                                       these relatively light calves with a high
                       Bozoisky Russian wildrye is an important        potential for growth. Stafford recounted
                       component of the winter feeding system.         several occasions when he received $20 less
                       Approximately 700 acres of Russian wildrye      per head for his calves than other operators
                       is rationed to the cows between December        received for spring-born calves sold on the
                       and April. The grazing strategy is to quickly   same day weighing 150 pounds more.
                       rotate the cows through the Russian             Production of these larger calves often
                       wildrye in the early winter while they are      requires feeding the dam an additional ton
                       lactating and consuming the highest quality     of hay and keeping calves in a feedlot after
                       portion. Cows are then returned to clean        weaning for 60 to 90 days. Stafford esti-
                       up the lower quality forage later in the        mates production costs on these heavier
                       winter after the cows are dry and nutri-        calves to be at least $130 per head more
                       tional requirements are lower. Stafford         than was invested in his calves.
                       reports that Russian wildrye is highly
                       palatable and contains crude protein levels     Stafford recognizes that allowing the calf to
                       double that of other pasture grasses during     suckle the mother through winter months
                       the winter. The estimated yield of Russian      runs contrary to conventional wisdom, which
                       wildrye acreage is 1.2 AUMs per acre.           suggests it is inefficient to feed a cow in order
                       Native range grasses on the ranch yield an      to put weight on its calf. Stafford points out,
                       estimated 0.2 AUMs per acre.                    however, that he could feed each cow 12
                                                                       pounds of alfalfa per day at the cost of placing
                       Stafford developed an interest in Russian       the calf in a feedlot. His experience suggests
                       wildrye after obtaining information from        both a cow and calf will thrive on good
                       the Natural Resource Conservation Service       winter range supplemented with alfalfa at a
                       (NRCS). In 1991, NRCS established 40            rate considerably less than 12 pounds per day.

Allowing a calf to suckle into February may       Conclusion
cause the mother to have difficulty meeting       Summer calving, which allows cattle to
maintenance requirements during the cold          harvest forage, is part of an overall philoso-
winter months because she is producing            phy of low input ranching. Stafford believes
milk. However, Stafford found that his            that his ranch would probably support
cows have had little trouble maintaining          1,000 cows if he acquired additional hay
body condition through the winter. For            land and produced hay for winter feeding.
example, he recently sold several pairs in        Pasture stockpiled for winter grazing would
January, and the cows averaged 1,100              then be available for use in the summer or
pounds each. Stafford points out that by          fall. He firmly believes, however, that the
February the calves practically wean them-        approach he has taken is more profitable in
selves, and this reduces their stress. Stafford   the end.
adds that late weaning may not be possible
without high-quality winter forage.

Deseret Ranches of Wyoming

Deseret Ranches of Wyoming is a cow, calf,        tation months in this region, averaging
and yearling ranch operated by Farm               approximately 2 inches. The winter months
Management Company (FMC), owned by                are normally a low precipitation season.
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day          The normal diurnal range is approximately
Saints (LDS). The ranch, purchased by             9 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit in January and
FMC in 1984, is a 66,000-acre operation           55 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit in July. The
currently supporting 1,400 mother cows            growing season is typically 120 days.
and 1,500 yearlings located between
Meeteetse and Cody, Wyoming. Three full-          Calving Practices
time and two part-time employees operate          Between 1984 and 1996, Deseret Ranches
the ranch. Mike Meek was hired as ranch           ran a traditional cow/calf operation with a
manager in 1997.                                  March calving season. Starting in 1997,
                                                  calving season was moved to June. A
The land base of the ranch comprises two
                                                  primary purpose of moving to a later
main sections. The northern section is
                                                  calving season was the land management
located near Cody and primarily consists of
                                                  objective. Summer rangeland is divided
BLM desert land. The southern section is
                                                  into seven grazing areas, and cows are
located near Meeteetse and is primarily
                                                  rotated between mid-March and mid-
composed of deeded land. The elevation
                                                  October. March calving limited rangeland
ranges from 5,500 to 7,000 feet. Annual
                                                  management alternatives because only one
precipitation averages 6 to 8 inches at the
                                                  area was suitable for calving during cold
locations near Cody and 10 to 12 inches in
                                                  weather. Logistic constraints with March
the higher elevations near Meeteetse. May
                                                  calving required each section of rangeland
and June are normally the highest precipi-

                                                        The breeding herd was reduced by 400
                                                        cows to support yearling calves retained
                                                        from the previous year’s calf crop.
                                                        Other benefits have emerged from late
                                                        calving. Replacement females can be
                                                        obtained from other operations within the
                                                        company at a lower cost than was possible
                                                        under the March calving system. For
                                                        example, Rex Ranch, a sister operation
                                                        located near Ashby, Nebraska, agreed to
Photo 10. Winter forage sustains this mother cow and
her calf.                                               extend its breeding season from 60 to 90
                                                        days. Late-bred cows that otherwise would
                                                        have been open and culled under the 60-
        to be grazed the same time of year, placing
                                                        day breeding period are shipped to the
        additional stress on early or late developing
                                                        Cody ranch. This arrangement allows Rex
        forage species, depending on utilization
                                                        Ranch to dispose of cull cows at a higher
        timing. Range conditions, consequently,
                                                        price while Deseret receives replacements at
        were deteriorating. Conversely, any location
                                                        a lower cost than it would take to develop
        was suitable for calving in June. Late
                                                        heifers. If inter-company operations are
        calving provided greater flexibility in land
                                                        unable to meet future replacement stock
        management decisions by allowing the time
                                                        requirements, Meek believes arrangements
        of year each section is used to be rotated,
                                                        can be made with local ranch operations.
        while also resting one section each year.
                                                        Lower feed costs are another advantage of
        Rotating the rested section of rangeland
                                                        late calving. Under March calving, cows
        each year offers management a chance to
                                                        were fed approximately 400 pounds of hay
        systematically undertake range improve-
                                                        over an average winter. Irrigated land
        ment projects. In the first year, sagebrush
                                                        production also was stockpiled for winter
        was disked and a grass/legume mix species
                                                        grazing. During the winter of 1997-1998,
        was established on the rested section.
                                                        the first winter after the calving switch,
        Similar improvement projects are antici-
                                                        cows were fed hay only four days. Late
        pated in the future. Managers, conse-
                                                        calving allowed management to shift forage
        quently, anticipate a significant improve-
                                                        produced on irrigated land from cow to
        ment in range conditions over the next few
                                                        stocker calf consumption, which has a
                                                        higher value use. Currently, 33,000 lower
        An additional factor in the calving season      quality acres of non-irrigated BLM land in
        change was the decision to diversify into a     the northern section of the ranch are used
        cow, calf, and yearling operation. Calves       for winter grazing. Cow/calf pairs are
        born in March were considered too large to      typically fed one pound of 40 percent
        profitably run through a yearling program.      protein cake per head daily during the

winter months. Snow in this area usually
blows away, so standing forage is available
throughout the year. Salt sage and browse
are abundant in the winter grazing country,
providing a relatively good source of
Purchasing replacements from other
producers reduces the importance of
selecting for genetic characteristics that may
better suit a cow to be successful in a late
                                                 Photo 11. Heifers winter on alfalfa stubble.
calving regimen. Bulls are a combination of
Simmental, Red Angus, Charolais, and
                                                 environment and the later calving and
Black Angus. The cows currently in the
                                                 breeding management system.
herd are a composite of several unidentified
breeds with black and gray color character-
                                                 Weaning and Marketing Practices
                                                 Calves are allowed to suckle through winter
Lower conception rates have emerged as a         until the body condition score on the
potential adverse effect of late calving.        mothers declines to approximately 4.5.
Cows on a March calving cycle are breed-         After the calves are weaned, cows move
ing in June when forage quality is near its      back to the targeted calving body condition
peak, while June calving cows are breeding       score of 5.0. In a late calving situation,
in September when forage quality is consid-      Meek believes it is cheaper to feed calves
erably lower. The current breeding period is     during the winter through a lactating cow.
60 days, as it was under the early calving       Meek expects to wean calves in February or
system. Conception rates, however, de-           March. The first crop of calves born under
clined from approximately 94 percent             the late calving system, weighing an average
before the change, to 88 and 90 percent in       of 400 pounds, was weaned in mid-Febru-
the first two years after. Meek is not certain   ary. Weaned calves are fed hay and cake
late calving is the root cause. A possible       until April 1. The target growth rate is 1.25
explanation might be in the age distribu-        to 1.50 pounds per day over this period.
tion and cow quality. When the cow herd          Calves are then placed in desert country
was reduced to accommodate yearlings,            until irrigated ground is ready for grazing
replacements were not added to the herd.         starting in mid-May.
This skewed the age distribution toward
                                                  Hay is purchased rather than produced on
older cows, which are declining in produc-
                                                 the ranch. The ranch contains approxi-
tivity. Also, many of these older cows
                                                 mately 1,700 acres of irrigated land, which
originated in Florida. Meek believes con-
                                                 is grazed by yearling calves during the
ception rates will improve as these cows are
                                                 summer. The management objective on
replaced with stock better adapted to this
                                                 irrigated land is to maintain a forage mix of

     45 percent legume and 55 percent grass           750 pounds, respectively. The spread
     species by weight on a dry matter basis.         between feeder and expected fed cattle
     Grass species include orchard grass, brome,      prices dictates whether calves are retained
     and cheatgrass. Legume species, including        through the feedlot or sold as yearling
     alfalfa and red clover, reduce the amount of     feeders.
     nitrate fertilizer required to maintain forage
     production. Forage yields on irrigated land      Conclusion
     typically average 2 to 3 tons per acre.          The impact late calving has on long-term
     Irrigation methods include center pivot          future profitability depends largely on the
     sprinklers and gated pipe.                       success of range improvements made
                                                      available by late calving. Although not
     During the summer, calves are separated
                                                      precisely quantified in dollar terms, late
     into steers and heifers and are managed
                                                      calving has already resulted in reduced
     under an intensive grazing system. Irrigated
                                                      labor and feed costs, according to Meek.
     land is divided into 19 cells that range from
                                                      Changing to late calving represents a major
     20 to 50 acres. Calves graze each cell up to
                                                      shift in management objectives for Deseret
     three days and are rotated through the entire
                                                      Ranches of Wyoming. According to Meek,
     cycle over a 24-day period. Grazing yearling
                                                      a management change of this nature may
     calves intensively during the growing season,
                                                      require managers to reconsider the entire
     rather than stockpiling forage and allowing
                                                      approach. He added that the paradigms
     cows to winter graze, dramatically increases
                                                      and strategies best suited for early spring
     total forage production on irrigated land.
                                                      calving might not be optimal under a
     Steer and heifer calves are shipped to a         summer calving system.
     feedlot in September weighing 800 and

     The Elmer Peterson Ranch

     The Elmer Peterson ranch is a cow, calf,         ranch produces grass hay on 2,000 acres of
     and yearling operation located along             irrigated land, which typically yields 2.0 to
     Interstate-80, east of Rawlins, Wyoming.         2.5 tons per acre in one cutting. Forage
     Elmer Peterson took over the ranch in            species on irrigated land includes brome
     1953 and eventually converted it from a          and garrison creeping foxtail.
     sheep to a cattle operation. Currently, five
                                                      Elevation ranges from 6,800 to 7,500 feet.
     employees operate the ranch, including
                                                      Growing season is typically 60 to 80 days.
     ranch manager Bob Hones.
                                                      Temperatures usually dip to –20 degrees
     The ranch occupies 168,000 checkerboard          Fahrenheit in the winter. The wind fre-
     deeded and leased BLM acres, supporting          quently blows, creating bitter winter
     2,000 cows, along with yearling stockers         weather conditions. Annual precipitation
     and replacement heifers. The herd is mostly      averages 8 to 10 inches, and April and May
     pure Black Angus, and mature cows weigh          are the wettest months.
     between 1,000 and 1,100 pounds. The

Calving Season                                    calves within the vicinity are rounded up
Peterson explained that his philosophy is to      and branded. Stock water facilities on
operate with minimal overhead and operat-         rangeland include reservoirs, springs, and
ing costs. An important component in              creeks. Most of the rangeland produces
maintaining profits on a low input opera-         relatively little forage, requiring 40 to 60
tion is to evaluate weather and forage            acres to support a cow over the seven-
conditions and to time the reproductive           month grazing season. Cross fencing,
cycle to maximize a cow’s ability to raise a      rotational grazing, and other intensive
satisfactory calf without human interven-         management practices, therefore, are not
tion. Calving season at the Peterson Ranch        economically justified.
takes place during a three-month period,          An important consequence of open range
April through June. The majority of calves,       calving is that assistance is not available to
however, are born in May. First-calf heifers      cows and heifers experiencing calving
begin calving one week earlier than the rest      difficulty. To minimize dystocia losses,
of the herd. Peterson’s calving season is later   heifers deliver their first calves in calving
than what traditionally occurs in this area,      sheds under close supervision, and those
as neighbors typically begin calving in           requiring assistance are culled. Once heifers
February or March. Peterson adopted a             are incorporated into the breeding herd,
later calving cycle when he started the           culling decisions are based on age rather
ranch because he believed it would reduce         than on production. A cow that does not
risk and increase productivity. Peterson          wean a calf is not necessarily culled, and
commented that an 80 percent calf crop            cows are not checked for pregnancy. If a
and smaller calves is better than a 50            cow comes off the range in the fall without
percent crop with larger calves. Also, the        a calf, there is no way to determine whether
ranch does not have enough calving sheds          the calf was killed by weather or predators
to accommodate the entire herd, and               or if the cow did not conceive. Between 85
building new sheds would be prohibitively         and 90 percent of cows are weaning calves.
                                                  Winter management also is an important
Cows migrate freely to find forage and            part of a low input livestock enterprise.
water after they are turned onto open             Late calving reduces but does not eliminate
range. Consequently, cows are widely              hay requirements. Peterson’s cows typically
dispersed at calving and throughout the           require 1.25 tons per head each winter.
grazing period. Peterson’s strategy is to         Neighboring producers on an earlier
intervene as little as possible with the cows     calving cycle typically feed 2 tons per cow.
and calves during calving and lactation.          After the calves are weaned in November,
Newborn calves are not weighed, paired            the herd is separated into two groups. One
with the dam, or tagged. The only human           group is put on the meadow and fed hay.
interaction cows and calves receive during        The other group winters in McFadden,
the summer occurs at branding. Portable           Wyoming, with another ranch operator.
corrals are moved to various locations and        Cows are placed in each group based on

     proximity to summer range. Replacement         mercial feedlot in the fall, weighing 750
     heifers are selected after weaning and         pounds on average. Late born calves appear
     shipped to a feeding facility near Alcova      to gain weight faster than earlier born
     where they are fed a ration of hay and         calves. Calves born two months apart reach
     grain. By the end of winter, these heifers     a slaughter weight of 1,250 pounds just one
     weigh 700 pounds and are ready for breed-      month apart.
                                                    The primary objective of the breeding
     Mature cows are sent to range a few weeks      program is to develop genetic characteris-
     before calving, around March 20. Salt sage,    tics in the calves to produce high-quality
     yielding 16 percent crude protein, is          meat, a product for which packers are
     abundant in this area and provides good        willing to pay a premium price. Bulls are
     forage until grass greens up in early May.     purchased from a Black Angus seed stock
     Winter storms are common through April,        producer or retained from the calf crop.
     potentially exposing cows and newborn          Peterson sells his finished cattle on
     calves to adverse weather conditions. Most     Monfort’s formula pricing system. The
     of the rangeland in this region, however,      proportion of Peterson’s finished cattle
     contains bluffs and breaks that provide        grading “choice” or better each year is
     protection from the elements.                  normally more than 90 percent. Peterson
                                                    credits the high-quality meat to genetics
     The breeding period takes 90 days. Bulls
                                                    and not pushing weight gain on the calves
     are turned out in mid-June and gathered in
                                                    too quickly. The average price Peterson
     September. Heifers not selected as breeding
                                                    receives for his fat cattle typically is $3 to
     stock but retained as stockers are spayed
                                                    $5 per hundred weight higher than the
     before moving to summer range. This
                                                    reported live cattle price.
     ensures that loose bulls from neighboring
     operations do not breed them.
     Marketing Strategy                             The Elmer Peterson Ranch demonstrates
                                                    that a low input operation can maintain
     Peterson retains ownership of the calves
                                                    long-term profitability. Calving under
     through the feedlot. Overwintering calves
                                                    favorable weather conditions is important
     are confined in an on-site feeding facility
                                                    to the success of this program. Peterson
     and fed hay. By the end of winter, these
                                                    cautions, however, that there is no single
     calves weigh approximately 600 pounds
                                                    “best” method of raising cattle. The success
     and are placed on grass in the spring.
                                                    of his ranch can be largely credited to
     Stocker calves are sent to irrigated pasture
                                                    adapting production practices to fit the
     leased near Elk Mountain for summer
                                                    resources and the environment.
     grazing. They are then shipped to a com-

Cutting Winter Feeding Costs by Grazing Windrowed Hay—
S & S Ranch Company
S&S Ranch is a third-generation cow/calf       the calves through the feedlot. The market-
operation in McFadden, Wyoming, located        ing objective is to wean calves in early
six miles north of Interstate-80, halfway      October and send them directly to the
between Laramie and Rawlins, Wyoming.          feedlot weighing approximately 550
The ranch was founded in 1942 by Roy           pounds. Finished calves will hit the April
and Opal Sims. Currently, S & S Ranch          and May fed cattle market, which is typi-
Company is a partnership between Don           cally the seasonal price peak.
Sims, his sons, Scott and Olin, and their
                                               The Sims family have continuously devel-
respective families.
                                               oped forage resources and examined alter-
The ranch consists of 22,000 total deeded      natives to cut production costs on their
and leased acres with approximately 1,800      ranch. In the early 1960s, they determined
acres of hay meadow. Currently, 3,200 tons     that part of the rangeland operated by the
of loose-stacked and windrowed hay is          ranch should be developed to increase
produced annually. Approximately 1,200         forage for grazing and control erosion.
tons of hay are sold each year, as cows        Over the next 20 years, more than 1,100
owned by other producers feed on site. Hay     acres of rangeland were seeded into Fairway
yields range from 1.25 to 2.25 tons per        crested wheatgrass. Corresponding fencing
acre.                                          and stock water improvements also were
Elevation of the McFadden area is 7,300
feet. Annual precipitation averages approxi-   These improvements made the artificial
mately 12 inches, with more than one-third     insemination program designed to improve
of the precipitation coming in the form of     genetics possible. Growing seeded wheat-
snow. The frost-free period is normally 80     grass allowed large numbers of cattle to be
days. Winds are constant and range from        placed in small pastures, making it easier to
10 to 30 miles per hour.                       handle the cows and detect estrus. By 1987,
                                               Don Sims estimated that increased annual
The breeding herd comprises 700 head of
                                               income, resulting from improved genetics
Gelbveih and Angus crossbred cows. The
                                               made possible by wheatgrass improvements,
breeding program includes synchronized
                                               was $10.65 per acre of improved pasture.
artificial insemination, followed by clean-
up bulls, all over a 63-day breeding period.   In 1983, test plots were established with
Heifers are bred beginning June 1 and start    the cooperation of the Soil Conservation
calving February 25. Mature cows are bred      Service (SCS) to determine the best grass
starting June 13 and begin calving on          species for the ranch. Several varieties of
March 17. The replacement rate averages        wheatgrass, Russian wildrye, basin wildrye,
17 percent per year.                           bluegrass, and other grasses were estab-
                                               lished and monitored for dry matter yield
S&S Ranch Company retains ownership of

                                                        Land and Livestock near Woodruff, Utah.
                                                        Simmonds explained the DL&L operation’s
                                                        winter feeding program, which included
                                                        grazing windrowed hay. This led to the
                                                        decision to cut and rake the hay on mar-
                                                        ginal lands and, rather than stacking the
                                                        hay into cribs, it was left in windrows for
                                                        winter grazing.

                                                        Benefits of Winter Grazing Wind-
Photo 12. Producers have found that windrowing hay      rowed Hay
and leaving it on the pasture is more economical that   Hay raked into large windrows and left in
stacking hay.
                                                        the field for winter grazing has become an
        per acre, utilization, and other productivity   important part of the forage management
        characteristics. No single species appeared     program at the S&S ranch. The obvious
        to dominate the others.                         advantage to grazing windrowed hay is the
                                                        labor and machinery savings, as the forage
        In 1992, S&S Ranch Company leased
                                                        is left in the field and grazed, rather than
        approximately 700 acres of marginal hay
                                                        mechanically harvested, stacked, then
        land. With rough terrain and low yields         unstacked and fed.
        relative to other hay meadows operated by
        the ranch, the economics of producing hay       Table 1 is a budget compiled by Scott and
        on this land was questionable. During this      Olin Sims estimating the relative cost of
        same period, Scott Sims noticed the hay in      loose stacking hay in hay cribs, versus
        one of the neighbor’s meadows was cut and       leaving hay in windrows. Each item in the
        raked, but frequent rain prevented the hay      budget includes a charge for labor, machin-
        from drying enough to stack into hay cribs.     ery, and purchased inputs where applicable.
        After turning the windrows several times in     The machinery expense includes a charge
        an unsuccessful attempt to dry the hay, the     for hourly depreciation, an average mainte-
        neighbor left the hay in windrows until fall    nance cost, and fuel. Assuming a forage
        and turned the cows onto them. Scott Sims       yield of 1.25 tons per acre under both
        was surprised at how well the cows spread       situations, estimated savings in direct
        out and utilized the forage. Shortly after      production costs resulting from not stack-
        this incident, Scott heard a presentation by    ing and feeding hay is $7 per ton or $2.80
        Gregg Simonds, then manager of Deseret          per AUM.

Table 2. Cost Comparison of Stacked versus Windrowed Hay.
                                      Windrowed hay                          Stacked hay
                                  $ Per Acre        $ Per Ton         $ Per Acre      $ Per Ton
Fertilizer                        12.00             9.60              12.00           9.60
Dragging                          0.68              0.54              0.68            0.54
Irrigation                        0.85              0.68              0.85            0.68
Fencing                           1.00              0.80              0               0
Mowing                            4.62              3.70              4.62            3.70
Dump rake                         2.32              1.86              2.32            1.86
V rake                                                                1.53            .77
Sweep                                                                 3.22            1.61
Stacker                                                               4.60            2.30
Feeding                                                                               3.21
Total                             21.47             17.18             29.82           24.27
Savings                           8.35              7.09

Forage grazing records kept at the ranch              Disadvantages of Grazing Wind-
show that a typical winter forage yield on            rowed Hay
windrowed hay land is 90 animal days, or              Leaving hay in the field causes nutrient
three AUM’s per acre, which is equivalent to          loss. Protein, vitamins, and minerals are
approximately 2,400 pounds of usable                  leached out as the hay is exposed to late
forage. S&S Ranch has not produced                    summer, fall, and winter precipitation.
stacked hay on this land since acquiring the          According to past forage samples, the crude
lease; therefore, no record of potential yields       protein content of windrowed hay averaged
if the hay were stacked rather than wind-             2 to 3 percentage points lower than stacked
rowed exists. Although he does not have the           hay. Stacked hay averaged 7 to 9 percent
data to verify it, Don Sims believes they are         crude protein and 56 percent TDN, while
getting more forage per acre from this land           windrowed hay averaged 5 to 7 percent
by leaving hay in windrows than they would            crude protein and 50 percent TDN.
if they tried to stack it. After the cows eat the
                                                      Forage accessibility is a common winter
hay, the grass underneath the windrows is
                                                      grazing issue in Wyoming. According to
still green and provides nutritious, palatable
                                                      Don Sims, snow tends to drift against the
forage. Only part of the forage raised on this
                                                      windrows in some areas, making accessibil-
land is mowed and raked. Grass in hard to
                                                      ity difficult. However, Sims concedes that,
reach areas or grass not tall enough to mow
                                                      overall, windrowed hay has rarely been
is left standing.

                                                        growing beneath the windrows could be
                                                        damaged. If the hay is cut too late, the grass
                                                        gets too dry and can blow away as it is cut
                                                        and raked. On the Sims ranch, grass is cut
                                                        between July 20 and August 10.
                                                        Hay is cut with a 9-foot sickle bar mower,
                                                        allowed to dry for two to three days, and
                                                        raked into windrows with an 18-foot side-
                                                        delivery rake. If the hay is allowed to dry
Photo 14. Cows feed on windrowed hay.
                                                        longer than two or three days, it becomes
                                                        too dry and will blow out of the windrows.
                                                        The windrows should be as large as pos-
       completely inaccessible because of snow
                                                        sible, because large windrows minimize the
       cover. Cows have rooted through up to 8
                                                        amount of forage exposed to the elements
       inches of snow to get to the hay.
                                                        and better preserve nutritional quality. In
       Another possible disadvantage of leaving         addition, Sims found that larger windrows
       hay in windrows is that hay lands cannot be      reduce the amount of forage blown away.
       irrigated during the fall and winter. Accord-
       ing to Don Sims, spring vegetation growth        Utilization Techniques
       largely depends upon soil moisture content       Windrowed hay normally is grazed between
       from the previous fall. Flooding hay mead-       November and February. The Sims recom-
       ows in the fall could enhance the hay crop       mend grazing during late fall and winter
       the following year. At the Sims ranch,           because spoilage is likely to occur if grazing
       irrigation water is only available between       is delayed into the spring, as the ground
       May 20 and July 10; therefore, fall irrigat-     beneath the wet windrow warms and
       ing is not an alternative.                       stimulates microbial activity.
                                                        After calves are weaned in October, the cow
       Hay Land Management Practices
                                                        herd is separated into “thin” and “fleshy”
       Before harvesting, windrowed and stacked
                                                        groups. The thin group consists of two-
       hay lands receive the same management
                                                        year-old heifers, unusually thin, and older
       practices. All hay land is flood irrigated as
                                                        cows. Middle-aged, fleshier cows comprise
       long as irrigation water is available. Fertil-
                                                        the other group. Each group is kept sepa-
       izer (32-5-0) is applied to all stacked hay
                                                        rate for the entire winter feeding season
       land and half of the windrowed hay land at
                                                        and managed according to specific needs.
       a rate of 256 pounds per acre (80 pounds
                                                        The thin herd generally is fed a higher
       of nitrogen per acre).
                                                        quality ration during the winter, which
       Harvest timing is an important component         normally leads to less time on windrowed
       of a successful windrowing program. If the       hay to maintain productivity. Both groups
       hay is cut and raked too early, the grass

generally are off the windrowed hay fields         One of the challenges with the windrow
and fed stacked hay by February 1 to               grazing system is getting the cows to utilize
ensure the cows are in proper condition            less accessible forage. According to the
going into calving.                                Sims, maximum forage utilization occurs if
                                                   cows are adequately dispersed. Maximum
The windrowed hay land is divided into 12
                                                   dispersion occurs if drinking water and
pastures, ranging from 100 to 150 acres
                                                   supplements are available 24 hours a day
each. Pastures are divided by permanent
                                                   and do not require daily delivery. Cows
solar powered electric fencing. An entire
                                                   need to be trained to graze the forage in the
group, typically 300 to 400 head, is rotated
                                                   field. If the cows see a truck frequently
together. The duration of each rotation
                                                   deliver a relatively palatable supplement,
varies, depending on the amount of forage
                                                   they begin to anticipate each arrival and
available, and the number of animal days of
                                                   crowd around the truck as it drives up.
forage available in each plot is estimated
                                                   Simply driving through to monitor the
from past records and by periodic visual
                                                   cows too frequently also can train them to
                                                   watch and wait to be fed or rotated into
Depending on yearly forage conditions,             another field. This behavior reduces the
utilization methods vary. In 1996, condi-          tendency to spread out and clean up less-
tions were dry after the hay harvest, result-      accessible forage.
ing in relatively little aftermath available for
                                                   Like supplements, if drinking water is
winter grazing. The “thin” herd was quickly
                                                   continuously available, cows are able to
rotated through the windrowed hay fields,
                                                   more efficiently satisfy water intake require-
using only the most accessible forage, then
                                                   ments, improving distribution and forage
taken off the windrows and fed hay for the
                                                   utilization. Scott Sims commented, “If we
rest of the feeding season. The fleshier herd
                                                   have to cut a hole in the ice each day, the
was rotated through afterward to clean up
                                                   entire herd gathers around and tries to
the forage that was left. In 1997, southeast-
                                                   drink.” Clearly, this makes it difficult for all
ern Wyoming experienced a large amount
                                                   the cows to satisfy their needs. At the Sims
of post-harvest precipitation, providing
                                                   ranch, a stream that remains partially open
abundant regrowth. The Sims wintered the
                                                   year-round bisects the windrowed hay land
thin herd on plentiful aftermath and
                                                   and provides a reliable source of drinking
stacked hay. Only the fleshier herd was
rotated through the windrowed hay.
Cows are not allowed to lose body condi-           Conclusion
tion while grazing windrowed hay. A 24             The economic viability of windrowing hay
percent protein, molasses-based liquid             to be grazed during the winter depends
supplement is provided to ensure energy            upon the resource endowment of the
and protein requirements are met. Cows             operation. Important factors are the
grazing windrows are fed 1.5 pounds of             amount of quality hay land available, stock
supplement per day.                                water sources, accessible irrigation water,

     and terrain and layout of the land. Forage       Late spring calving places cows in an open
     can be utilized several different ways. The      grazing situation at parturition. Also,
     success of this program depends on con-          capturing the winter feeding benefit of late
     stant monitoring and recognizing the needs       calving may require setting aside sections of
     of the cattle by observing their condition       pasture or range formerly grazed in the
     and behavior. Weather changes each year          summer for winter grazing. Increasing the
     and influences the success of winter graz-       amount of forage harvested by cows may
     ing.                                             require reducing cattle numbers, converting
                                                      irrigated land from haying to grazing,
     Summary                                          acquiring additional grazing land, or some
     Each operation interviewed for this study        combination of these possibilities. The
     faced unique circumstances and, therefore,       entire grazing plan, therefore, would likely
     used different management approaches.            be affected by a calving season change.
     However, several common and important            These interviews revealed that a successful
     facts emerged.                                   late calving program may require selecting
     Benefits of late calving include reduced         breeding stock genetically suited to main-
     winter feed and labor costs. Producers           tain satisfactory production, while exposed
     interested in changing calving season need       to adverse conditions. This means that
     to know:                                         producers must find cows that can deliver a
                                                      calf with minimal intervention and success-
     ·   Late calving requires a reassessment of
                                                      fully raise a calf and rebreed after enduring
         the entire grazing program.
                                                      a winter on minimal feed. While replace-
     ·   A breeding herd that is suited to            ment strategies varied among producers
         management objectives is important.          interviewed, there was a consensus that
                                                      relatively small breed types work best.
     ·   Late calving requires a reassessment of
         the marketing program.                       Calves born in late spring are significantly
                                                      younger in the fall when they are tradition-
     ·   Alternatives to stacking hay for winter
                                                      ally weaned. Calving season may have a
         feeding must be found.
                                                      profound impact on fall calf weight and,
     Benefits experienced from late calving were      therefore, on revenue. Moving calving later
     categorically similar among operations           into the spring would probably force
     making the conversion. Primarily, late           producers to seek an alternative to selling
     calving reduced winter nutritional require-      weaned calves in the fall. The typical
     ments and allowed producers to substitute        strategy among late calving producers was
     relatively expensive hay and supplement          to retain yearling calves through summer
     with grazed forage. In addition, calving         and send them to the feedlot in the fall.
     under more favorable weather conditions          Retaining yearlings minimizes the impact
     reduced the risk of distocia and calf disease,   of weaning weights on net income. Con-
     thereby lowering labor requirements.             verting to a yearling operation, however,

opens additional grazing management and          Literature Cited
financial issues that must be considered.
                                                 Adams, D.C., R.T. Clark, T.J.
Late calving is part of a low input manage-      Klopfenstein, and J.D. Volesky. (1996).
ment philosophy that enables forage to be        Matching the cow with forage resources.
harvested with livestock rather than ma-         Rangelands, 18: 57-62.
chinery, thereby, shifting toward more
                                                 Adams, D.C., R.T. Clark, S.A. Coady, J.B.
renewable resource consumption. This
                                                 Lamb, and M.K. Nielsen. (1994). Ex-
approach is consistent with the sustainable
                                                 tended grazing systems for improving
agriculture philosophy of increasing profit-
                                                 economic returns from Nebraska Sandhills
ability while reducing risk and improving
                                                 cow/calf operations. Journal of Range
the resources that support the operation.
                                                 Management, 47: 258-263.
Windrowing meadow hay for wintering
                                                 Clark, R.T., D.C. Adams, G.P. Lardy, and
cattle is an alternative to stacking then
                                                 T.J. Klopfenstein. (1997). Matching
unstacking. A substantial cost advantage
                                                 calving date with forage nutrients: produc-
occurs because it eliminates several proce-
                                                 tion and economic impacts. Proceedings,
dures during harvest, as well as the cost of
                                                 The Range Beef Cow Symposium XV (pp.
unstacking and feeding. Windrowing does
have some limitations that may affect
success. This process eliminates any fall        D’Souza, G.E., E.W. Maxwell, W.B. Bryan,
irrigation of the meadows. Hay nutrient          and E.C. Prigge. (1990). Economic impacts
levels may be reduced, snow cover may            of extended grazing systems. American
interfere with consumption, and wintering        Journal of Alternative Agriculture, 5: 120-
wildlife may cause substantial damage.           125.

A management philosophy common to the            Simonds, G. (1990). Implementing cost
producers examined in this study is that         reduction practices. Proceedings, National
maximizing profits is more important than        Conference on Lowering Beef Cattle
maximizing production. Many of these             Production Costs. (pp. 25-31). Depart-
producers maintain that large calves are         ment of Animal Science, Colorado State
desirable but are often not worth the cost.      University, Fort Collins.

Each producer interviewed was quick to           Younglove G. (1998). Compatibility of
acknowledge that production practices that       short grass native range to nutrient require-
work well for one operation may not work         ments of early or late calving Hereford
for another. They suggest it is important        cows. Doctoral dissertation, University of
for each operation to carefully evaluate its     Wyoming, Laramie.
own resources and adopt production
practices that fit its particular environment.


To top