Why the Packer Loves Cowmen: Part V, Goals and the Breeding Index

by Dr. Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume

Reasonable goals are: 1) conception rate of 95% in a 60 day breeding season; 2) 75% of cows should calve in the first 20 days of calving; and 3) 90% or more of the cows that are palpated pregnant should wean a calf.

More lies are told about conception rates than anything else in ranching. However, this is likely not  intentional but due to the fact that there is no standard way of calculating true reproductive performance. The best measure of reproduction is number of calves weaned per 100 breeding animals. This is called the breeding index and is akin to the reproductive index discussed in Part I but not exactly the same. It is calculated as the sum of:

Breeding Bulls                                _______

+ Young Bulls                                     _______

+ Mature Cows                                   _______

+ Two-year-old heifers                       _______

+ Yearling heifers                               _______

Equals: Total Breeding Animals         _______

Number of calves weaned the following year   _______ (calves weaned as a result of the previous year’s breeding)

Reproduction Index = Calves Weaned divided by Total Breeding Animals X 100

A breeding animal is defined as any animal kept for breeding purposes. Be honest with yourself, if the animal is kept with the possible intention of breeding, it should be considered a breeding animal. In other words, decide how many heifers are true stockers and call the rest breeding heifers.

What is a good breeding index number? The best (theoretical) is about 73 when heifers are bred to calve at two-years old. If bred to calve at three, that drops to about 55. Most fall between 35 and 60.

Also, there are some other things you need to know for each herd or age group: 1) The number exposed to the bull; Then, of those exposed; What percentage conceived (conception rate); 3) How many calved (calving rate); 4) How many had a calf that was branded (branding rate); and 5) How many weaned a calf (weaning rate).

Divide each of these numbers by the number exposed and multiply by 100 to get the rates.

Furthermore, knowing the percentage of cows that calve each week and how many calve at intervals through the calving period is useful in making decisions on how to reduce the length of the breeding season and in projecting conception rates. There are several ways to determine the time of calving. For example, you can tag the calves with number or color coded tags at regular intervals. Or you can count the number of calves weekly. Or you can estimate at palpation when the cow will calve.

This sounds like a lot of extra work but it is really not all that much, especially when you consider the potential improvement in profits that will make it worthwhile. Furthermore, it is hard because you haven’t done it before. Once you get things are sorted out, a lot less work is needed. It is always the beginning that is the hard part.

After: Parsons, Stanly D. Putting Profit into Ranching

Dr. Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume (send him mail) is President & CEO, Land & Livestock International, Inc. providing a complete line of management & consulting services to the range livestock industry.

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
This entry was posted in Cattle Production, Cell Grazing, Herd Effect, Managed Grazing, Managing the Ranch as a Business, Mob Grazing, Ranch Economics, Savory Grazing Method and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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