August 30, 2014

Plans for Replacing Breeding Stock Culled during the Drought

Here in Texas, as most people know, we faced the worst one-year drought in the last 100 years last summer (2011). Many cattle producers liquidated their herds completely because of lack of water, pasture and the high cost of feed and hay. I, personally, culled and sold 30% of my breeding cows. I was lucky, in that I had water available through the drought and was able to buy hay (although it was extremely high priced), and was able to keep my best cows.

Since January 1, 2012, through this date, February 20, 2012, rainfall here on my place has equaled what was received in 2011 through July. Winter wheat is looking good and has been good enough to produce some grazing, cow body condition is back up to normal, and I’m “itching” to restock. But, my cautious side says, “Whoa, now, rather than going out and buying a bunch of cows, you better do some planning for the future and for restocking those overgrazed pastures from last year!”

Even though things look good right now, the “experts” are still predicting a drier than normal year in my area. So, even if the pastures are greening up, the mild winter temperatures, plus the moisture, have allowed winter grasses to emerge and grow, maybe I better be a little cautious in my zeal to restock.
I do not claim to be an expert (definition of expert: a person carrying a briefcase and who is more than 50 miles from home) but there is some experience from the past, going through a drought, culling down to the bare minimum, then restocking.

Here are my plans:
1. Reevaluate my current cow herd to be sure all the cows I have left are really good producers. What’s the calving percentage for this spring’s calves?
2. Look at my current bulls for producing the kind of calves for which I’m looking, their age and relationship to my cows/replacement heifers.
3. Evaluate early this spring’s crop of heifer calves and decide if I want to raise my own replacements or go out and buy replacements. From watching the markets, it looks as if replacement heifers/cows will be fetching a premium price.
4. Look at my pastures – what needs to be done and how long do I need to wait to let them be restored from the dry weather? Do I need to spend the money to clear brush and reseed? And, what stocking rate will allow the pastures to continue to improve, if moisture comes?

Want to review some real expert advice, take a look at Stocking Rate and Grazing Management by Charles R. Hart and Bruce B. Carpenter of Texas A&M University.

After looking carefully at all the above, I’ll slowly and painstakingly make my decisions for restocking. What are your plans?

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