John Nollette         Jacki Musgrave  John Nollette, Lead Ranch Technician and Jacki Musgrave, Research Technologist III

We had a mild fall and winter at GSL. In a normal year, we would have to supplement hay to our cows on range a couple times during winter storms. We have not had to do that yet this winter. As much as we appreciate a mild winter, we are concerned about the lack of precipitation as we near the start of the growing season.

Last year, 2021, was a good hay production year with a 14.2% increase in hay produced compared to our 16-year average. We fertilized approximately 250 of 475 acres that were baled. Overall, our hay averaged 7.9% crude protein and 57.9% TDN. With the possibility of a dry year coming and the potential need for increased hay feeding, we made the decision to increase the acres of sub-irrigated meadow to be fertilized this coming growing season. This is a bit of a catch-22 decision with increased fertilizer costs and the chance of being dry. However, with our current balance of last year’s hay carryover, we feel like the opportunity to sell any additional hay that we wouldn’t need is worth the risk of fertilizing and fertilizing more acres.

Black calf In both yearling heifer groups this past year, we decreased the breeding season from 45 to 30 days, which was partly due to trying to minimize the number of late-calving young cows the following year. Pregnancy rates were 83.1 and 66.2% for March and May heifers, respectively. Pregnancy rates for our March-born yearling heifers were similar to pregnancy rates in 2020; however, May heifers were about 20% lower. Two-year-old pregnancy rates were 7.6% lower in the March herd and 3.6% lower in the May herd this year compared with 2020. Mature cows in both herds had pregnancy rates similar to last year (92.9 vs 92.3 and 94.7 vs 93.4%, 2021 vs 2020, March and May, respectively).

Weaning weights in our mature March cows were 61 pounds greater than in 2020. However, our younger March-calving cows weaned calves 42 and 15 pounds lighter than weaning weights in 2020. Weaning weights for mature May cows and three-year-olds were greater than in 2020 (40 and 22 pounds, respectively). May two-year-old weaning weights were similar to 2020.

Red Calves

Calving season has gone well so far. All heifers calved within 25 days of our expected due date. We have had 38% of three-year-old and 60% of mature cows calved out at 12 days into calving for our March herd.

Smart Feeder We received two new Smartfeed electronic units in February. Each trailer has 2 bunk units with a platform scale unit mounted in front of them to collect partial animal weights when they step up to eat. These units are currently being used with our May yearling and March replacement heifer studies. 

Nicole Woita and Selby Boerman, MS graduate students, have been full time GSL residents since last April. They both plan to complete their programs this summer. They have not only worked on their own research projects, but contribute to many of the activities at GSL, including calving. We appreciate all the work these two have done here and are excited for them as they look forward to their next endeavor.