Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch

Monitoring Animal Performance

Animal performance records should include beginning and ending weights and/or breeding animal condition scores for critical intervals of the production cycle.

Body Condition Score

Research from stations across the United States and from many diverse environments has shown that Body Condition Score is an indicator of future reproductive performance. BCS may be used to predict total pounds weaned and gross income. If BCS is low after weaning, nutritional supplements can be fed to improve BCS before calving.

Gain

Many factors affect animal production besides cumulative grazing pressure, including animal condition and stage of plant maturity.

“Green” cattle may gain more than 3.0 lb/head/day on lush early-summer forage. Growing cattle will lose weight on dormant-forage resources without supplements. Dry cows could gain weight during late summer and early fall where lactating cows would lose condition. Additionally, animal performance can be affected by animal health, genetics, implants, and environmental variables.

Livestock scales are one of the best investments in the range livestock industry. Managers cannot efficiently change what they cannot measure.

If large numbers of animals are involved, consider weighing a representative subset of the same animals at the beginning and end of each grazing season.

Livestock should be weighed on site and under the same conditions each time.

The most accurate weights occur after an overnight stand without food and water. This procedure should only be used at the end of the grazing season when ownership is retained or a minimum of 30 days before shipping dates when cattle are sold.

Pregnancy Percentage

Pregnancy percentage measures past reproductive performance during the breeding season, and also can be a predicator of total pounds weaned for the up-coming production year.

Precipitation and Grazing Records

From a management perspective, livestock performance records and wildlife census information are incomplete without precipitation and grazing records. Reproductive efficiency of breeding livestock can be affected by multiple variables throughout the year, including seasonal patterns in forage resources. The effects of precipitation and grazing management on forage quality and quantity are driving variables for average daily gains of growing animals. Wildlife are affected by weather extremes and seasonal availability of food and other habitat requirements.

Leading and Lagging Indicators in Animal Performance

*excerpted from KEY INDICATORS OF SUCCESS IN RANCHING: A BALANCED APPROACH, Dunn and Etheredge

Lagging indicators measure past performance. Leading indicators are predictive of future performance. Some measures can do both. The importance of leading indicators is that they provide an opportunity for intervention if necessary.

Body Condition Scores (BCS) of dry pregnant cows is an example of a leading indicator.

Total pounds weaned is a lagging indicator.

Pregnancy percentage is both a lagging and leading indicator.

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