Cow Body Condition at Weaning?

MargaretClare

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I realize this question could depend on breed but in beef cattle, when weaning calves at 7 months what body condition is the cow expected to be in. Even if the cow was rebred when calf was 3 months?

I'm not very used to cattle and it sounds like they'll be skinny after all that, and I just want to know what's expected to be normal and healthy.
 

farmerjan

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If the calf is older than 6 months, it will be eating quite a bit on it's own and the cow should be gaining. I don't follow the "body score" so much, but she should be a 4 to 5 at a 7 month weaning. Again, that will depend on what time of year you are calving and weaning also. Fall calving, and weaning in April, the cow will be a little less. She has been milking and trying to do so on mostly/all hay ? If a spring calving, and good pasture, then she should be in a little better condition by weaning in say Nov.
Anything over a 4 would be okay if she has at least 3-4 months to calving. She will gain quickly ....IF she gets good hay and/or pasture.... and do not give her much grain, if any, close to calving as the calf will do all the growing and the grain will not help the cow much. It will cause the calf to maybe get too big and cause calving difficulties.

Another thing. Some cows will maintain body condition all the time. If they raise a nice calf, that is who you want to raise replacements out of. You want one that will always look "fat" and sassy. The more condition they maintain on just pasture is more money in your pocket because you will be putting out less in feed costs. Providing she is also making milk and the calf is growing good.

My dairy/beef crosses will always look a little thin at calf weaning time, but they will gain quick once they stop milking.
I personally like my beef cattle to be a little on the "fatter" side. Not gobby roly-poly fat. But to be be better condition than some of the experts have said they "ought to be". I think most like them to be in the 5-6 range. I like 6 + range. But our cattle have to contend with the crappy winter weather that is often more cold rainy stuff, mixed with snow. Straight snow is actually easier on them. Cold is not so bad until they are soaked through to the skin. Then they exert a tremendous amount of energy trying to get and stay warm. Dry cold, and even snow, is not near so bad.
 

greybeard

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Another thing. Some cows will maintain body condition all the time. If they raise a nice calf, that is who you want to raise replacements out of. You want one that will always look "fat" and sassy. The more condition they maintain on just pasture is more money in your pocket because you will be putting out less in feed costs. Providing she is also making milk and the calf is growing good.
Easy doers.
There's also hard doers.
It's all about inputs. If you have to spend more $$ and time to get one to have, raise, and wean a calf than you do an easy doer, then the hard doing momma and her weaned calf need to both go the the sale ring.
There's too many good cows out there to put up with a marginal performer.

Assuming it's not the rancher/farmer's fault, mommas that have to cannibalize their own condition very much to wean a calf will be less likely to easily and quickly breed back and...it's often a trait that momma will pass to her daughters.
Breed best to the best and slaughter the rest.
 

MargaretClare

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Thank you both. :) My grandma and parents are keeping only a couple cows for producing a couple calves for us to butcher every year or so, so no major replacement breeding decisions for now. We live in the AZ desert so we do have to feed hay year round since we don't live on large grazing land. Not ideal but we're still happier with our own meat than grocery store meat.

We have highland/angus cows, calved in October and Grandma's starting to think about when we should bring in the bull again. Her and my dad are more familiar with cattle than I since they're from a ranching family but we've noticed the backyard herd thing is rather different sometimes. Different breed, different feeding, etc.
 

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The biggest thing is to make sure they are producing a calf yearly. And I don't mean one this year in March and next year in October. 12 month calving interval is what they are designed to do and for the sake of economics, what they need to do. So from the day they calve, they should go 60-90 days, have had at least 1 or 2 heats, and be getting bred back. They should have a 3 month "non-pregnant" stretch while their calf is a baby. Between 3-4 months should be getting pregnant to calve again 9 months later. She should have a 60 day break from the weaned calf before the new one is born. That is when the fetus does the most growing. A consistent ration and she should be good to calve. Not saying no grain, and don't deprive a cow that is used to a little grain... but don't go gung ho feeding alot just before calving. They need nutrition, don't need a glut of feed.

Don't blame you for wanting your own beef, I haven't bought any beef in probably 30 years or more. Like my own much better.
 

MargaretClare

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The biggest thing is to make sure they are producing a calf yearly. And I don't mean one this year in March and next year in October. 12 month calving interval is what they are designed to do and for the sake of economics, what they need to do. So from the day they calve, they should go 60-90 days, have had at least 1 or 2 heats, and be getting bred back. They should have a 3 month "non-pregnant" stretch while their calf is a baby. Between 3-4 months should be getting pregnant to calve again 9 months later. She should have a 60 day break from the weaned calf before the new one is born. That is when the fetus does the most growing. A consistent ration and she should be good to calve. Not saying no grain, and don't deprive a cow that is used to a little grain... but don't go gung ho feeding alot just before calving. They need nutrition, don't need a glut of feed.

Don't blame you for wanting your own beef, I haven't bought any beef in probably 30 years or more. Like my own much better.
Yes, we're probably gonna bring the bull back in a week or two for the 12 month cycle.
Goats are the same way with little to no grain in late gestation.

Do you have a preference of grain type if we need to supplement? What exactly are protein tubs supposed to be for? At this point they're just on grass hay, a little bit of alfalfa pellet, and some loose mineral they don't seem to like.

We're really enjoying our own meat, and it absolutely tastes much better than the store meat.
 

farmerjan

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We use 2 types of feed. I have a couple of cows that just do not like the straight pellets. I get a custom mix 16% pellet that had DE and Kelp added, plus a vit/min "pack" so that it is a balanced feed not just a commodity pellet. But I also use a 14% "calf ration" that is a pretty standard one, and it has molasses and one cow loves it and another one prefers the pellets.. but I will mix it as the pellets are cheaper and I buy by the ton. The calves also get it mixed so they don't get to where they will only eat the sweet feed. The 14% sweet feed has a good amount of oats in it, cracked corn, some other grains, plus some pellets for protein, and molasses. I use this mix as feed for all the cows and calves. They seem to do pretty good on it. We will use just the pellets at pastures when we are just checking cows and feed on the ground; mostly because that feed bin is easy to get to and throw a couple of buckets in the back of the truck. The sweet feed I get in 50 lb bags and empty into metal "garbage cans" or the groundhogs will tear the bags open overnight. So I keep that at the barn which is a little further away and not as easy to get to up in the pasture in the little barn.
The protein tubs are a way to provide protein, free choice for the cattle. They are convenient, and are a way to provide it in case of poorer hay or forages. If you see the animals everyday, a little feed will be alot cheaper way to go. I do use the tubs sometimes, and they are an easy way to do it. One word of advice. Get the "cooked tubs" as opposed to the ones that are just "poured". The cooked tubs are usually the bigger ones, they seem very hard, and it helps to limit that amount consumed daily. A little rain will soften it a little on top and they will lick it. They are about 2 to 3x more expensive, $125 to 200; are usually 125 to 250 lbs.... but are a much better bargain for the money. The ones that are in the $60-75 range are poured, and they will consume them much faster because they are softer. I like the convenience, but they are a more expensive way to get a protein supplement into the cows. All have a molasses "base" so they want to lick them. I use a 20% all natural tub, no added urea.
 

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