Page 86

Working Ranch - March 2016

86 | WORKING RANCH | MARCH 2016 time period and another group that calves during August-September period. Gaining access to a little more grass, they developed grazing cells with each one consisting of several 20- acre paddocks. Each paddock in a cell is connected to a “hub” – a feeding area equipped with fenceline bunks. “The January-February cows calve in a feedlot setting and go to grass in early spring. We rotate through the paddocks, but the cows have access to the hub area where we feed a ration designed to meet half of their nutritional needs. We’ll wean those calves into the feedlot in July or early August, and for fence-line weaning of calves. At their mothers’ sides, calves learn quickly to eat from the bunks, and low-stress weaning is accomplished by sorting the cows into an adjacent pasture. “We’ve spent a lot of time on nutrition, learning how to tweak rations and feed cows as economically as possible. It works. Our breeder up rates generally run at 97 to 98 percent and the calf weaning rate averages around 93 percent,” says Crocker. “Limit-feeding cows for part of each year is a way to expand cattle numbers without buying or leasing more grazing land. And it can allow other family members to be brought into the operation,” adds Crocker, alluding to the involvement of his own son, Justin, and his young family. ACCESS TO THE HUB Ed Greiman and his brother, Matt, are cattle feeders that added a cow-calf enterprise to their north-central Iowa operation about 15 years ago. In the beginning, the cows were kept in confinement except for a minimal period on pasture and while grazing cornstalks in winter. “We live in corn country. The land is pretty level and a majority of it is under cultivation, so there just isn’t much pasture except along the creeks,” says Greiman. “Cows and calves in confinement worked okay in the beginning but we eventually ran into health problems. It wasn’t calf scours. We learned how to manage that with a cow vaccination protocol. It was respiratory disease that gave us trouble when pairs were confined so much of the time.” The cow-calf enterprise has since evolved into what Greiman calls a “hybrid” system for managing cows that calve during a January-February According to Iowa cattleman Ed Greiman, the biggest advantage comes in how the calves respond. “Calves learn from their mothers and typically are eating feed by two months of age. They wean and transition into the feedlot easily, because they already know how to eat from bunks. Because of that, we can get them to finish about 30 days sooner than calves we buy.” IOWA CATTLEMEN’S ASSOCIATION


Working Ranch - March 2016
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