May 17, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

As interest in fall calving increases among Kentucky beef producers, bred heifer sales are growing to meet the demand.

Last year, Washington, Nelson and Marion counties banded together to hold a special sale of select heifers bred to calve in the fall. That sale was a huge success, said Rick Greenwell, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources in Washington County.

“So many people want to do fall calving and this is a way to get a premium for your product,” he said. “In today’s beef industry, you’ve got to pick up premiums where you can.”

The three-county group is holding a second Central Kentucky Premier Heifer Sale for fall-bred heifers on June 3 in Lebanon. In western Kentucky, the West Kentucky Select Bred Heifer Sale is May 23 in Guthrie. 

Bred heifer sales are not new, noted Kevin Laurent, UK animal science Extension associate. But they have primarily been geared toward spring-calving herds. Laurent is coordinating the west sale. The sales are sponsored by UK, Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association.

Introducing sales for fall-bred heifers will help meet the need of producers who have or are interested in starting a fall-calving herd, he said.

“In the southwest Kentucky-Tennessee area, there are probably more fall calving herds than in central Kentucky so we thought there was a definite need,” Laurent said.

Traditionally, Kentucky cattlemen have used spring for calving, with cattle sometimes giving birth in less than desirable weather conditions. Generally there is less sickness in fall calves resulting in fewer death losses and cheaper veterinary costs, Greenwell said. For the part-timer, fall also means longer daylight hours to check cattle after work.

Fall calving requires a good forage program. If a producer doesn’t have an above- average forage program or silage, he may not want to calve in the fall, Laurent said. In addition, there are some good, inexpensive feedstuffs such as grain byproducts (e.g., soyhulls, corn gluten, distillers grains) that can be used to creep feed calves from January through March. But if a producer doesn’t want to deal with this extra labor, especially in muddy conditions, then they might not want to choose fall calving.

The sale heifers are all bred to bulls that meet the expected progeny differences (EPD) standards in the tobacco settlement program’s genetic improvement program. In addition, pelvic measurement standards are in place to help ensure calving ease as well as reproductive tract scoring and the animals are pregnancy checked prior to sale. 

In addition to the heifer sales, CPH-45 sales for fall-born calves are on the increase across the state. These preconditioned feeder calf sales offer producers a market that often attracts top dollar for the calves, which must have undergone specific herd health programs.

“We’ve had one CPH sale, central Kentucky has had a few and Owensboro has had a real successful sale for three years,” Laurent said.

Making the switch from spring to fall calving is not easy, Greenwell said. It requires more management and several years to make the move. One farmer in his area switched from all spring calving cows to a 50-50 split in three years, but that is not common. Four is more common, he said.

Some producers like using both calving seasons because it allows for better cash flow for the farm. It also allows them to get twice the use out of their bulls. Even the best cattle managers will have a cow that breeds out of season from time to time and having two calving seasons allows them to move the cow from one season to the next without having to sell the animal or have an open animal on the farm for a long stretch of time.

For more information on the central Kentucky sale contact the county Extension agent in Washington, Nelson or Marion counties and for the western Kentucky sale visit the Web site.


Kevin Laurent, (270) 365-7541, ext. 226, Rick Greenwell, (859) 336-7741