The_Calving_Profitability_Guide

TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL CALVING SEASON

Ashley Kettner

Meet Ashley!

Ashley and her husband are the 6th generation to take over his family ranch! Her focus is the same as any rancher - getting higher conception rates, tightening up calving windows, getting more marketable beef on the calves, minimal health concerns, and of course do it all cost effectively!

Chapter 1

Calving Date

Does your ranching operation calve out in the spring? The fall? Maybe somewhere in between? You’ve probably been ranching for multiple years, and may have a good reason for calving at the time you do. But what if re-analyzing your calving date could prove to be helpful, easier, and maybe even more profitable? What if you could boost calving performance, simply by changing your calving date?

There are a couple of initial questions to ask yourself.

  1. Where are you located geographically? 
  2. What month do you plan to calve in currently?
  3. What are the weather conditions like where you live at your calving date?

If you live in the Midwest, or even out west further in Montana, Wyoming, or Colorado, you probably deal with heavy snow, below freezing temps, and high winds. It may seem normal; these are issues you just have to deal with during calving. But have you ever wondered what it would be like if you didn’t have to worry about these environmental facors?

Cold weather and precipitation are likely to invite calf sickness and other calf health, strength, and growth issues when they hit the ground. Death loss is likely higher in environments with harsh weather conditions.

The South may not experience the cold as much, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have their own environmental factors to deal with. If you calve in extreme heat, you may deal with cow and calf stress, which can also result in weak immune systems and sickness.

What If... You Changed Your Calving Date?

Changing your calving date may seem like an extreme measure to take. Some ranchers say that changing their calving date will change the value of their calves too much. But have you ever took the time to work it out for your own specific operation?

What does your market look like? Where would you sell? When would you sell? We challenge you to compare the seasons you could calve in, and analyze what your return on investment could look like! It wouldn’t have to be a drastic change either - it could be just enough of a change to get out of the extreme temperatures and weather elements.

To bring your death loss from 5% down to 1% simply because you were able to move your calving date into a milder timeframe could result in a higher profit per animal than if you kept your calving date during an extreme weather time of year.

If you weigh the pros and cons and find that you won’t lose out on price per pound, it’s a win! By reducing calf sickness and treats, death loss, plus your own time and labor, you may just come out ahead with a few more dollars on your bottom line!

Make Your Ranch More Profitable

If you’re able to find a way to change your calving date to a time that prevents sickness and treats, it can have a long-term effect. When calves start out healthy and strong, they will grow and perform much better throughout the rest of their lifetime.

If changing your calving date is something you may consider, it is important to look at the big picture. As we always say, make big ranch decisions from a holistic point of view. If you did move your calving date to a month with milder weather, what time of year would you need to breed in? And what would your weaning time frame look like? In the case that you did adjust your calving date, but it caused your breeding timeframe to be at a harsh time of year, you may see lower conception rates. At the end of the day, if your cows don’t get bred, you’re not even going to have calves on the ground.

It’s not an easy or a quick decision. But it is something that we’d suggest analyzing on your operation. What time of year is going to make the most sense to help build that profit margin for your bottom line?

No doubt, every ranch is different. We’re not here to say that switching your calving date is the ticket to improve calving success and calf health. But, if it worked out on your operation and allowed you to have more profit per animal, it may be worth a try!

Chapter 2

Calving Genetics

Chapter 3

Fetal Programming

The term fetal programming is used far more in the industry today than it used to be. Have you ever wanted a simple explanation of what it means and how it ties to cow pregnancy development?

We at Riomax® like to describe fetal programming as something that has a direct impact on maximizing your animal genetics. It comes down to two main factors: your management practices and your cattle nutrition program. These components work hand in hand to develop your animals to their full potential, which at the end of the day, means maximized profit for you.

Fetal programming isn’t something that happens in just one day; it’s somewhat of a process that evolves throughout the development of the calf. For the best chance of fetal programming success, you need to start thinking about it from day one, when the cow is bred.

From the day the cow conceives to the day she calves out, it’s crucial to provide the highest quality nutrition to her, which essentially, is for the calf. That way, the calf will be stronger and more efficient with healthy organs not only when it is born, but for the rest of its life. That, in itself, is fetal development. Give calves the best chance of success by providing them with the quality mineral they need while they’re still a fetus. Then, they’re healthy from day one, they grow and produce more efficiently themselves, and so the cycle continues to create a healthier, stronger, and more efficient herd.

Let’s break it down, so you can see how the whole process works.

Right After Breeding Season, Fetal Programming Begins

You may not be thinking of calf health and performance during breeding season. Many ranchers wait until the third-trimester to focus on a nutrition plan for the cow. You may even wait until the calf is born before you begin to consider its mineral needs. But did you know that the health and success of the calf start developing during the first couple weeks of its life as a fetus?

Right after the oocytes fertilize, the cells begin to replicate. This is the beginning stage of embryogenesis. By day four, the cells have entered the uterus.

Immediately after the cow is bred is the time you need to start thinking of the calf; how well do you want it to perform at birth, when it’s six months old, and so on? The better you can set the calf up BEFORE it’s born, the better it will perform as it grows, the better its organs will function, and the more efficient that animal will be. Ultimately, it will have a direct impact on your bottom line, because animals that perform well are worth more, right?

Now, although providing mineral to the cow during the third trimester is important, and will absolutely help fill the calf’s mineral bucket, doing that alone is not enough to make a noticeable effect on fetal programming. For fetal programming to be entirely successful, calves need to have minerals provided to them throughout the whole cow pregnancy, from conception to calving and beyond.

30 Days After Conception

Within 30 days, the calf is developed enough that you can detect a heartbeat. Additionally, the fetus’ main organs and extremities are developing.

60 Days After Conception

By nine weeks, the fetus is already three inches long. This shows just how much is developed early on, which is why mineral is critically important at even the very beginning of the pregnancy.

Without high nutritional standards during this period, the fetus has a higher chance of becoming mineral deficient, and its organs are likely to be weaker once it is born. This results in a higher chance of sickness because a mineral-deficient calf with a weak immune system will struggle to fight off disease.

Skimping on mineral to mama cow within the first couple months of pregnancy will have an effect on her calf’s entire life. It won’t perform as well when it is born, it may not grow and develop to its full potential, and if it is a breeding heifer, you may still see effects when it comes time for it to get bred.

The point is, the more you can provide high-quality nutrition to the cows (and therefore, the calves), the stronger, more efficient their organs will be throughout their entire life.

90 Days After Conception

The digestive system starts to develop at about three months, and the fetus is roughly fourteen centimeters long. You can even distinguish each of its four stomachs and the hoofs become distinct.

Growth happens very quickly at this stage, and like anything, the fetus needs food to grow. As its organs develop and its digestive and immune system forms, it is critical that the fetus gets the minerals it requires. This is essentially what will help determine the efficiency of how the animal lives and how it converts feed. This starts in the rumen, which is why the digestive system and stomach need to be strong.

6 Months After Conception

Nine months seems like a long time, but the growth happens incredibly fast. At six months, the fetus is already about a foot and a half long, varying slightly between genetics and the breed of the animal.

At this point, the cow is going into her third trimester, during which 70% of the fetus’ growth happens. Third-trimester cow health is commonly talked about in relation to calf health, and while it is a critical span of time, the organ and internal development have already long since started. The third trimester is when the fetus gains the most weight and its extremities grow the fastest.

Month Nine: Ready For Calving

As the third trimester wraps up and the cow enters her ninth month of pregnancy, the calf is about three feet long and its body is covered with hair. The bulk of the animal’s growth happens in the last few months, and that’s why third-trimester nutrition is an essential component to healthy calves on the ground.

But at the same time, there really is no one month or trimester that should be considered less important for mineral supplementation. There is so much essential development happening throughout the entire pregnancy, from the day the cow conceives to the very end when she calves out.

Fetal Programming: The Cycle Continues

If you are a cow/calf operation, you likely breed with intent. That simply means you breed your cows with a goal in mind, whether it be to keep the animals for breeding stock, to sell the bulls or heifers for breeding stock, or to send them to a feedlot and feed them out for steaks. Whatever your individual operation’s goal is, it all starts the day the cow conceived.

You may have assumed that fetal programming only happens during one stage of the cow’s pregnancy. It’s true that the animal grows the most at this stage, but fetal programming takes place all the way from conception to birth. Some of the calf’s most important organs that it needs to survive are developed the earliest in the pregnancy.

When looking to amplify the genetics and further build out your own operation, you must consider the importance of cow/calf nutrition from day one; that’s how you will create the optimal impact on the calf’s life through fetal programming.

Chapter 4

3rd Trimester Nutrition

Third Trimester Cattle Nutrition: Essential For Calving Success

But what makes it so essential for success, why is it important, and how exactly will it affect your calving season? These things ultimately have an effect on your bottom line, and that's why it matters.

Optimize Calf Performance

Over 70% of the growth of the fetus happens during the third trimester, which is why it is a critical time to ensure that you're giving the cow everything she needs to optimize her full genetic potential. As Dr. Hall of Utah State University always reminds us, very little trace mineral can make it through the milk and into the calf!

Now imagine that every calf has a mineral bucket, which needs to be filled for optimum performance. If you were to wait until calving to provide trace minerals to the calf, the mineral bucket will be fairly empty.

But, if you start providing minerals to the fetus during the third trimester, it will give the calf a headstart on filling its bucket. Ensuring the mother has a high-quality mineral now will allow the mineral to get into her bloodstream, and through the umbilical cord to the calf. Ultimately, this will create a higher chance of success when calving season rolls around. When the fetus receives high-quality minerals in the 3rd-trimester, it can start building an immune system that will help it fight sickness and scours. The calf’s vigor will also be impacted, and the better it starts it’s life, the better the calf will perform and gain as it goes.

Growth In The Third Trimester

As mentioned, 70% of fetus growth happens in the third trimester. That means the 3rd-trimester is a critical time to pay attention to cow condition, wellbeing, and most importantly, her mineral supplements. After all, the only way the fetus will get what it needs is if its mother does.

A high-quality mineral supplement during the third trimester will help reduce cleaning issues, which in turn will reduce the chance of other infections in the cow. Additionally, she will be better prepared for the next breeding season. The sooner the cow can get bred, the sooner there’ll be a calf on the ground for the next season.

Ultimately, you have a much higher possibility of a uniformed calf crop, which will only put more dollars in your pocket.

The Path to a Successful Calving Season

You may be thinking, this all sounds good on paper. But, how do you ensure that you're on the right path?

Step 1: Take a look at the forms of mineral that you're feeding. This is critical. If the trace minerals you’re feeding are unable to make it to the bloodstream, they're definitely not making it to the fetus. To be sure that the minerals are getting to their destination, make sure they are 100% protected key trace minerals. That will give you the best possible chance of allowing the minerals to make it to the bloodstream and into the fetus to do their job.

Step 2: Here's the thing: mineral can't do it all on its own. Be sure to look at the digestion side of things with your program as well to make sure you’re covering all angles of cow and calf health.

Step 3: This may all sound expensive. But it is so important to look at more than just the upfront cost. Review your cost per head per day. That is your true cost to feed.

Chapter 5

Cows Cleaning

Chapter 6

Calf Vigor

Do You Have Weak Newborn Calves? Here's How to Improve Calf Vigor.

Weak calves. Sick calves. Calves that won’t get up and suck.

Do any of those difficulties sound familiar to you? Weak newborn calves that don’t get up right away are the cause of frustration for ranchers across the continent. Not only do they cost you extra time and hard work, but calves that are born weak and limp are more likely to struggle throughout the rest of their life.  To have the highest chance of improving calf vigor, you need to think about impacting the strength and energy of the calf long before it is born. If you wait until the calf hits the ground to start supplementing it, unfortunately, you’re too late.

You all know that the faster the calf gets up and gets colostrum from its mother, the faster the calf can get going, growing, and developing. Those first moments play a critical role in the rest of the calf’s life; colostrum brings antibodies and provides passive immunity to that calf to help it fight off disease challenges in order for it to have a more productive life. 

So, how can you ensure that the calf is born with vigor so it can get up immediately?

A Quality Mineral Supplement

The best way to make a positive impact on your next calving season is to be proactive. That simply means to think ahead. What can you do before the calf hits the ground to ensure it starts its life out right?

The first thing to do is analyze your mineral supplement program (or look into one if you don’t have anything currently). A quality mineral program during the third trimester is essential to giving the calf what it needs in order to be healthy once it’s born. As Dr. Hall, a professor from Utah State University, says, every calf has a "mineral bucket". It's important to fill that bucket during the third trimester so that when the calf is born, it has a sufficient amount of all the minerals and nutrients it needs. In turn, the calf will be stronger, more energetic, and most importantly, healthy!

Things to look for in a cattle supplement program:

  1. 100% protected key trace minerals - no less! This is critical, because when minerals are completely protected, they  have the highest chance of getting through the rumen, into the bloodstream, and passed on to the fetus.
  2.  A multi-component digestion pack is something that cannot be overlooked either. A good quality digestion package’s job is to work with the rumen microbes and enable cows to pull more nutrients out of their existing forages and utilize them.

Together, 100% protected key trace minerals and a multi-component digestion pack create a synergistic powerhouse that will promote herd health, calf vigor, and maximize your herd’s genetic potential.

Set Your Calves Up for Life

The first step to stronger, more energetic calves is a quality mineral supplement - not just once the calf is born, but all throughout the 9 long months of gestation. For the very best results, we’d recommend starting the supplement program as soon as your cows are bred. That will give you the best chance of a healthy calf crop not only at calving, but for the rest of the calves’ lives.

Chapter 7

Calves licking the ground

Do Your Calves Lick Dirt? Why You Should Prevent It.

Have you noticed your calves licking the dirt around them? Do they seem to get sick often? It’s not uncommon for calves to lick the ground, but it’s definitely not healthy for them. Licking dirt or even eating it can pose health risks to calves, especially when they’re newborn and don’t have a very strong immune system.

If your calves lick dirt regularly, it’s important to put a stop to it before it has a negative effect on their performance. What are some of the effects of calves licking the ground?

Coccidiosis

Perhaps the most prevalent issue caused by calves licking the ground is coccidiosis. If there is coccidiosis or another disease in the manure, it can spread and contaminate the soil, water, and any feed that is nearby. Because calves are curious by nature, they lick the ground, pick up the disease, and get sick.

When calves get cocci at such a young age, it can continue to get worse and cause long-term effects. Not only do you have to put time and money into treating them while they’re sick, but coccidia can also damage the villi on the intestinal wall and have lasting negative impacts on the calf’s nutrient absorption ability.  When the villi get damaged and nutrient absorption is suppressed, it will affect the way the calf performs and develops as it grows, it will not wean as well, and ultimately, the calf won’t be worth as much as it would have been.

Gut Irritation

When calves lick the ground, they may end up ingesting soil, dirt, gravel, or sand. While that may seem harmless, gravel and sand in the rumen can scratch up the gut lining, causing irritation. It can even get so bad that sores and ulcers form. Not only is that uncomfortable for the calf, but a scratched gut lining also creates a harsher environment for the good bugs to try to survive in, which has a direct negative impact on the way the calf can perform going forward.

Prevention

It is common for calves to have negative growth performance if they lick on the ground too much, whether as a result of sickness like coccidiosis or because of internal harm to the gut lining.

Nobody wants to deal with coccidiosis or poor growth rates in their calves, so what can you do to get ahead of the game and prevent calves from licking the ground in the first place?

Calves will always be curious and attempt to lick on all sorts of things. One way to reduce the amount calves lick on the ground is to place a lick tub supplement out in their pasture. By putting a tub nearby, you give the calves something else to be curious about, and rather than wandering around and licking the soil, the calf will get at least a couple of licks of beneficial nutrients. Additionally, the calf will watch its mother lick the tubs, naturally follow her, and learn to lick the tub itself.

Attempt this simple lick tub technique on your operation to help prevent calves from licking the ground. Place the tubs out before calving season begins so the tubs are available to calves as soon as they’re born, and you’ll be one step ahead in preventing calf sickness and gut irritation.

Chapter 8

Calf Scours

Chapter 9

Yeast & MOS

If you’re in the ranching industry, you’ve more than likely heard of MOS. There are multiple MOS products on the market, and you may even be familiar with the term Agrimos, Bio-Mos, Advanta MOS, or BgMOS. Whatever name you call it, MOS is important for cattle to help promote a healthy gut and rumen.

Now, you could be thinking to yourself, sure, it may be important for cattle. But what difference is it really going to make?

As the Riomax® team, we feel that it is important to shoulder-up to ranchers; listen to your needs, answer your questions, and do whatever we can to make your life easier. Riomax® herd health products do contain MOS and yeast, but let’s look into what these specific ingredients are and why they’re important, no matter what you currently supplement.

What is MOS for cattle?

MOS actually stands for a big long word: mannan oligosaccharides. Mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) are prebiotics composed of complex carbohydrate molecules, derived from the outer cell wall of S. cerevisiae, whose main components, β-glucans (mannoproteins), are known as elements capable of activating the immune system of animals.

MOS is often added to supplements around calving season to help reduce sickness within calves. But after calving season, it’s generally removed in order to cut back on cost, which is understandable.

Why is MOS important?

The main purpose of MOS is to help build gut integrity and reduce bacteria. 

To help you imagine it in your mind better, think of an apple. Let’s pretend that the apple represents a yeast cell. Where does MOS fit in? MOS is actually just the skin of that apple, or in other words, the very outer layer of a yeast cell.

While MOS is very powerful, it has much more potential when combined with the full yeast cell. With this in mind, Riomax® created the Riomune® yeast pack.

What makes Riomune® different?

Riomune® yeast is a component found in every Riomax® product. It includes MOS, but it actually has many more components to it. Riomune® is a multi-component yeast, meaning it is comprised of multiple elements that are designed to work together to flush out bad bacteria and improve immunity.

Instead of just being the skin of that apple, or just MOS, Riomune® yeast is the entire apple, all the way from the skin to the seeds. In other words, it is the entire yeast cell.

We all know that MOS is very beneficial in helping to tie up bacteria and get them out of the animal’s system. But the difference between plain MOS and Riomune® yeast is that the multi-component yeast cuts a far wider swath. Not only does it tie up and flush out bacterias, such as E. Coli and salmonella, it also helps reduce parasite attachments to the gut wall, like coccidia.

E. Coli is the leading cause of bacterial scours in calves. By reducing bacteria faster, Riomune® yeast plays a large role in preventing sickness from things like pathogenic E. Coli. A healthy herd means a more productive herd, which eventually means more money in your wallet.

Results that make a difference.

When quality ingredients start working together, significant results can follow. Further to improving immune health, the Riomune® combination also impacts milk production, feed conversion, weight gain, and increased overall herd performance.

The best part is, Riomune® yeast starts working almost immediately. Within 30 seconds of being exposed to bacteria, it starts doing its magic! Check out the visual demonstration to see for yourself!

The faster Riomune® yeast gets into the cow or calf, the faster the response will happen and it will get to work and make a positive impact on your herd.

Riomune® yeast is part of Nutrizorb®, the digestion pack that is found in every single Riomax® formula, no matter what time of year. We believe that Riomune® (MOS & yeast) is important for cattle year-round because it affects performance and efficiency all throughout the year - not just in calving season.

It’s all part of staying ahead of the game. Prevent issues before they even come up, and you’ll have herd performance that all your neighbors will be jealous of. Not just this year, but for years to come.

Chapter 10

Milk Quality & Quantity

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