A recent article on the Alberta Farm Express website chronicles the experience of Holistic Management practitioner Jim Bauer and his journey of changing his calving date to later in the year (May to be exact), so that the calves are born when there is fresh green grass for the mother cows to eat and animal performance for them remain high while the calves gain weight quickly.
The greatest nutritional need for cows is in the last trimester, so a cow that will calve in February is having to maintain condition during the coldest part of the year and when the days are shorter. But a cow calving in May has greater energy needs as the days are lengthening and the temperature is moderate (particularly in Alberta).
Not only does this change in production practices mean that calves are less likely to be sick as they deal with challenging weather conditions if born too soon in the year, but the producer spends less money on vet bills and less time doctoring sick calves in miserable conditions. In fact, I can’t think of a single producer who has gone back to early calving once they have changed to calving in sync with Nature.
One of the biggest concerns for producers who are considering changing their calving date is that they won’t have a good weight calf for the fall markets. But Jim says that there is research that May calves actually out gain January and February calves so the difference in weight at the fall is not that great. Likewise, he has found that there are lots of marketing choices including overwintering and selling the animal the following spring or backgrounding.
As always, the biggest challenge to change is changing your mindset and thinking outside the production box you have learned. But if you remain open to learning about new techniques that are leading to better profit and quality of life for the animal and the producer, then ranching gets a whole lot more rewarding.
To learn more about Holistic Planned Grazing, visit HMI’s free download page to get a free Holistic Grazing Planning e-book.
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