By John Nollette and Jacki Musgrave
We were fortunate to complete calving both March and May herds with minimal losses, however we did see differences in calving distribution. May cows and heifers had 94% calving in the first cycle. The March herd had fewer, with 88.5% of cows and 55.8% of heifers calving in the first cycle.
Dry conditions early prompted us to takes steps to prepare for drought. We decided earlier this year to graze meadows with our March cowherd through mid-July, which stretched our upland range. We also sent the May yearling steers to the feedlot and sold cull yearlings a month earlier than scheduled. Shipping yearlings earlier will increase flexibility in our grazing management of the rest of the cowherd. We fertilized our home meadow again this year. Many areas have seen hay crops down 30 to 50%. Our hay crop is 10% below average, so we feel that fertilizing was a good decision.
Diets collected from our esophageal fistulated cows in June and July were lower than average in crude protein (CP). Upland range averaged 9.4 and 7.7% CP in June and July, respectively; much lower than the long term averages of 12.2 and 11.2% CP for those months. Dry, hot conditions may have contributed to these lower values. Our May steers grazing upland range averaged 2.1 lbs ADG May-Sept 2017-2019 compared with 1.2 lbs ADG May-Aug 2020. However cow body condition scores were similar to last year. We just finished AI’ing our May calving two- and three-year-olds. We had a 55% response rate to our 7-day Cosynch with CIDR estrus synchronization protocol.
We have had a full crew of graduate and undergraduate students helping with research and overall ranch work this year. Having 2 graduate students and 1 intern (now a graduate student) help with calving responsibilities this year freed up time to work on other ranch duties. Graduate students and interns are only here for a few months to a couple of years and then new students take their place. This graduate experience adds value to what we do at GSL. Tasha King recently finished her time at GSL. We look forward to seeing Tasha transition to this new chapter and really appreciate her help the last two years at GSL.
A new 5-year study utilizing the Ranch Practicum herd began this year. Cows were synchronized and bred to the same terminal Angus sire with either male sexed or traditional semen. The idea is to see if we can increase total pounds of calf produced in the entire production system (weaning through finishing) by increasing the male percentage of the calf crop. This could allow commercial maternal-based herds to use terminal AI sires with male sexed semen without sacrificing potential replacement heifers. Production responses including milk production, calf weaning weights, AI pregnancy rates, overall pregnancy rates, and post-weaning feedlot performance will be evaluated.
Covid-19 has made us adjust the way we do things. Much of the cattle work and research was adjusted so it could be completed with fewer people. We have adapted and will continue to do so as we look forward to fall.