August 9, 2000 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Beef producers across the Commonwealth certainly have enjoyed the summer of 2000 more than the summer of 1999. Milder temperatures and more rain combined this year to keep pastures in good shape all through July.

Last year at this time, producers were already feeding hay and many were having trouble getting water to their herds. It is hard to believe that summer will soon be winding down and beef producers will have to think about weaning spring calves.

"There are a couple of important management considerations producers need to think about before weaning time," John Anderson, agricultural economist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said. "First, working calves prior to weaning will prepare them for the stress of weaning."

Working calves before weaning especially is a good idea for producers who are considering marketing their calves through a CPH sale. Producers should have a good relationship with their veterinarian and ask what makes up a good pre-weaning health regime.

"Second, some consideration should be given to weighing calves at weaning as a means of obtaining information to use in marketing decisions," Anderson continued. "There are a couple of reasons weighing calves this year might be an attractive option, even for folks who have never weighed their calves at weaning before."

Several Kentucky counties have purchased portable scales through the Ky. Dept. of Agriculture's Value Added Grants program. Anderson said that makes it relatively easy and inexpensive for producers in those counties to weigh their calves at weaning time.

The UK Cooperative Extension Service offers Cow Herd Appraisal of Performance software, which makes use of information such as birth dates and weaning weights to analyze the productive efficiency of a cow herd and individual cows within that herd.

CHAPS analyses can be useful in identifying non-productive cows and in finding management problems in the operation. However, without weaning weights, a critical piece of information is missing, which could hinder a CHAPS analysis.

"Finally, it's not too early to begin formulating a marketing plan for this year's calf crop," Anderson said. "Developing a strategy related to where, when and how your calves will be marketed is important."

Examples of marketing avenues include regular sales at local auctions, CPH sales, special heifer sales, direct sales to backgrounders of feedlots, and retained ownership. All the marketing methods have different considerations related to the timing of marketing, health programs, on-farm facility requirements and feed requirements. Starting a marketing plan now will help you market your calves in the most advantageous way with a minimum of headaches.


John Anderson 859-257-7273