Starting in January, winter feeding begins with snow cover. We try to graze our cows as long as possible on crop aftermath and stockpiled pastures. Cows may be supplemented with hay during extreme cold and snow but are allowed access to pasture. Bred heifers and 2nd calvers are sorted from mature cows and brought home. They are fed corn silage and chopped hay to allow them to gain condition before calving.
The cow herd is moved to the livestock unit about March 1. The diet of the cows is increased to improve condition of the cows and provide adequate nutrition for the calf and for the cow to produce colostrum. The cow herd is vaccinated for scours and given additional vitamin ADE injections prior to calving. Nutrition is critical during this period to produce a healthy vigorous calf and to allow the cow to rebreed in a timely manner. The cow herd has access to free choice mineral and trace mineral salt at all times. The mineral mix has additional copper and selenium added as this area has been shown to be deficient in these minerals. The heifers begin calving about March 15 with the mature cows starting about April 5. The calving season on the cows last for about 45-50 days and is completed by about May 25. The mature cows are calved in a pasture close to the yard. Heifers are calved in a pen to allow for closer observation. During bad weather, the cow herd is brought into the yard for protection. Prior to turn out, the calves are worked. They are branded, castrated, dehorned, vaccinated with 7-way and 4-way viral (IBR, BUD, PI3, Syncitial virus), and the steers are implanted. The cows are vaccinated with the 4-way viral as well as lepto and usually fly tagged.
We try to utilize tame grass pastures usually starting about May 10-15. They offer excellent high nutritional grazing and help to flush our cows prior to breeding. Native pastures usually are grazed starting about the last week of May. The majority of cows are grazed using a rotational system. Rotational grazing allows us higher stocking rates and increased beef production per acre. Many rotational grazing systems have been researched by us and information is available on the different systems.
Bulls are selected for production and carcass traits. We want moderate framed bulls that calve easy and produce calves that grow quickly with heavy weaning weights. We want them to continue to grow well in the feedlot and produce carcasses that grade well with minimal fat covering. We also want the females from these bulls to be able to maintain themselves under range conditions and produce heavy uniform calves. We try to utilize crossbreeding to maximize heterosis (vigor) but strive for uniformity and predictability in our calves. The bulls are fertility tested prior to turn out on or about June 25. They are allowed to run with the cows for about 45-50 days before being pulled from the pasture. We try to implement artificial insemination on most of our heifers and many of our cows. Heifers are synchronized and bred to proven calving ease sires.
Cows are heat detected and bred while on pasture to well proven sires. This enables us to utilize genetics we would be unable to purchase and quicken genetic improvements.
Calves are generally creep fed for 30-45 days prior to weaning to get the calves eating and ease the stress of weaning. We usually wean in mid-October. The calves are revaccinated with 7-way and 4-way viral. They also receive pasteurella vaccine along with internal and external parasite control. Steer calves are also reimplanted. All calves are weighed and a hip height recorded. The cow herd has been on the CHAPS program since 1981. The information gathered allows us to track individual cow performance and herd trends from year to year. When needed, this information is used to cull unproductive cows. Calves are backgrounded on homegrown feedstuffs produced on the Center. The length of time we feed calves is determined by the quantity of feed available and the need for them for research projects. We try to utilize the calves for feed projects and research whenever possible.
After weaning, all cows are pregnancy examined and any unacceptable open cows and cull cows are sold. Young productive open cows are rebred for fall calving in August and September. The pregnant cows are returned to fall grazing pastures until winter sets in.
The fall herd calves in August and September. The calves are weaned in April. The management of the fall calvers is the same as for the spring calvers, except at different times of the year.
The cattle at CGREC are bred and managed under practical conditions just like those of our neighbors. It gives us unique insight into the production problems facing area producers. Hopefully, the research gathered here will lead to more profitable and sustainable agriculture in the Northern Great Plains.