Mimicking Nature to Increase Profits

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It took me a while to get Big John to pose like this but after a little poking and prodding and telling him that he looked maaaarvelous he pushed back that leg, swung his head up, and looked right at the camera.  I have been out visiting a few producers lately and the subject of breeding inevitably comes up.  While there is no standard answer to this question, It is important to match your particular breeding program to your property’s abilities and resources.  There are general guidelines for each species of when it is best to mate and to birth.  Over the years, these guidelines have generally been driven by consumer preferences (Easter lambs) or dictated by markets (grain surplus).  Recently, and especially in ruminate species, we are seeing a trend of mimicking the natural cycles of nature when deciding your yearly reproductive schedule.  When I look onto the herd I am thinking about each animal’s nutritional needs during that particular time of year and analyzing if my feed program is meeting their needs.  There is a sweet spot where you can time your birthing so that you can feed the least amount of supplemental feed (hay or grain) to get the most gains.  This also applies after the animal has birthed.  Weening to coincide with ruman development, weight gains, and in the least stressful way possible will also allow you to feed less supplemental feed through the winter months.  Some of the top grazers in the country are now recommending late birthing, stockpiling forage to be fed in winter, and providing more marginal quality supplemental feed during the winter months.  Not only is this type of management good for the animals, it can greatly effect your bottom line.  I am proud to say that by stockpiling forage and monitoring my own system I have gone from feeding 100 bales for 8 cows over the winter to feeding 80 bales to 23 cows this winter.  That is a tremendous cost savings for my tiny operation.

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