Are Open Cows Costing You Money?
If you let an open cow slip through this fall, you’ll never recoup the loss.
That’s according to Dr. Tom Troxel, associate head-animal science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Once a cow goes open a year, you just never get that money back by keeping her an extra year,“ Troxel told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor. “One of the things we have found from our 300-day grazing demonstration at (the UA Livestock and Forestry Research Station at) Batesville, is that it takes the net return of approximately two calves to pay for one open cow… It costs $600-650 to run a cow for a year; that’s a lot of money, so if that cow is not producing a calf, that’s just money down a rathole.”
A producer who maintains both spring and fall calving herds can hedge a little; if the cow comes up open in the spring, they can try her again in the fall rather than immediately culling her. Troxel said, “Some will earnotch that cow so they know that cow has been moved from one herd to the next,” but he added, “Once they’re open again, they will not move her another time.” Nor should a first-calf heifer that shows open be spared. “Some long-term Montana data have shown if a heifer is pregnant with the first calf, she will be much more productive throughout her lifetime than those that are not pregnant with their first calf,” Troxel said. “The rule of thumb is that if that first-calf heifer is not pregnant the second breeding, then she should be culled.”
As with most producers, the Batesville station preg checks cows at weaning time. There are two different options for testing – a blood test, which runs about $3 a cow, or a veterinarian, who will charge $2.00-2.50 a cow for testing via rectal palpation. Both, said Troxel, are highly accurate, assuming the veterinarian is well qualified. The blood test can identify pregnancy as early as 30-45 days; if the calf is about to be weaned the pregnancy is about six months along; and Troxel pointed out, “You’ve already got the cow and the calf up in the chute; you’re already doing some other things, so you don’t have to gather them another time to do the pregnancy check.”