Influence of weaning date and late gestation supplementation on beef system productivity

Range cows grazing dormant native range during the last trimester of gestation are deficient in energy and protein and may require additional supplementation to maintain or gain condition score. An alternative strategy to a feeding supplement is changing the weaning date. Moving the weaning date earlier in the year may allow for spring-calving cows to enter late gestation in a greater body condition score. In a 4-year study, March-calving cows were used to determine the impact of weaning date and prepartum supplementation on cow-calf performance. At October weaning, weaned calves were relocated to cool season meadows and supplemented approximately 1 lb/calf/day of a distiller-based protein supplement. The supplement rate was designed to achieve a similar body weight as the non-weaned calves until the December weaning. Cows weaned in October maintained BCS from October to December; however, cows weaned in December lost 0.3 BCS during the same period. Despite differences in BW and BCS prior to calving, subsequent pregnancy rates were not affected by weaning treatment. Calves weaned in October gained 0.4 lb/d more from October to December than calves nursing dams and weaned in December. Results from this study suggest weaning date can be utilized as a strategy to increase cow body condition score prior to winter. This may be an important strategy to use during dry conditions or for young cows and low body condition score cows.

To read more about this study, click on this link:

Measuring all the things

By TL Meyer, Central Sandhills Beef Educator 

“It is difficult to manage what is not measured.”

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

These quotes get thrown around plenty and with good reason. They use few words to make a solid point. How many ranchers can rattle off their average weaning weight, calving start date, or how many pairs or yearlings they can run on their pastures? Hopefully, most of them.

Can those same ranchers tell you how happy or unhappy the people on that ranch are? Probably not in a measurable way because it’s not just the size of the cowherd, ranch, or bank account. Is the family happy and healthy? Do employees contribute to ranch success with their skills, work ethic and/or attitude?

Ranching is not just a lifestyle; it is not just a business. When measuring the health and progress of a ranch, measure lifestyle quality as well. The Balanced Scorecard for Ranch Planning and Management does that. The Balanced Scorecard measures and evaluates five perspectives in addition to Lifestyle: Learning and Growth, Natural Resources, Cattle (and other commodities), Customers, and Financial.

While it might seem difficult to measure Lifestyle; the people who own, operate and manage are what makes the ranch succeed. Use measures or questions that objectively evaluate the Lifestyle perspective without emotions taking over. How long has an employee worked for the ranch? Will the business continue to the next generation? Will family heirs own and manage it? Will outside management take the business into the next generation? Should it be sold?

This barely touches on the Balanced Scorecard. If you would like more information, please view the sources listed below or find me on Twitter @beef_educator or Facebook and Instagram @beefeducator.

Key Indicators of Success in Ranching: A Balanced Approach. 2005. B.H. Dunn and M. Etheredge, Range Beef Cow Symposium (Rapid City). Available at 

Using the Balanced Scorecard for Ranch Planning and Management: Setting Strategy and Measuring Performance, B.H. Dunn, R.N. Gates, J. Davis, and A. Arzeno. 2006. Available at