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Fall calving has many benefits

Autumn brings many sounds to southwest North Dakota. The hum of engines in the fields, the cheering from the stands at sporting events and the sound of leaves falling off trees, but one sound southwest North Dakota residents aren't hearing is the...

cows

Autumn brings many sounds to southwest North Dakota. The hum of engines in the fields, the cheering from the stands at sporting events and the sound of leaves falling off trees, but one sound southwest North Dakota residents aren't hearing is the bellow of a newborn baby calf.

"Fall calving is not very common in southwest North Dakota," said Kurt Froelich, Stark County Extension agent. "Most folks around here calve in the spring."

One reason may be fall calving can interfere with harvesting, Froelich said.

"There can be a lot of hassle in fall calving," said Larry Schell, president and general manager of Stockmen's Livestock Exchange. "In order to calve in the fall producers need to have a set schedule of farm work and ranch work."

North Dakota State University Livestock/ Biosecurity Specialist/ CalfAID Mick Riesinger agrees.

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"Many producers try to fit calving into what works best for their ranch environment and the market prices," Riesinger said.

"One advantage of calving in the fall is not having to worry about the headache of spring snow storms and wet, rainy, muddy conditions," Riesinger said.

"I see it (fall calving) more with purebred guys, it gives them more marketing opportunities," said Bleaux Johnson, veterinarian at West River Veterinary Clinic in Hettinger.

Johnson said by calving in the fall and selling in the spring ranchers may hit more opportune markets; they also have more diversity in age of their cattle.

"Ranchers have a third option," Riesinger said. "Do both."

"If you calve in both the spring and fall you would have two paychecks instead of one," Riesinger said.

"I'm not saying that you will be getting more money; just the timing of your income would be different.

Johnson says there is not much difference between spring and fall calving, the only major differences are timing and weather.

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"Ranchers just need to do what works for them," Johnson said.

He also added that although ranchers may avoid the bad weather when the calf is born, they still have to deal with it as the calf is growing up.

"Since the calf will be on the cow during winter months, it is important for the ranchers to keep a good eye on the pairs and step in when necessary" Johnson said.

"Cattle are pretty tough critters," Riesinger said. "But even so having adequate wind breaks, food and shelter for your cattle is a must."

Just like people, cattle -- especially the old, sick and young, can be at risk for hypothermia, frostbite and other cold weather injuries in the winter, Johnson said.

"But if they have good nutrition they can handle a lot of environmental conditions," Johnson said.

Having adequate wind breaks allows cows to use their energy for other things than fighting the weather.

Some of the best protections from cold weather a rancher can offer their cattle are draws, trees, and secluded areas between hills. "And if that's still too cold, take them to the barn," Johnson said.

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Johnson said whether ranchers decide to calve in the spring or fall or both makes no difference.

"What matters is taking care of the cattle and doing what is best for your own operation," Riesinger said.

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