As summer begins to draw to a close, the thoughts of many farmers and ranchers turn to the fall calving season.

While not everyone plans their breeding program around fall calving, it is a popular choice for numerous producers in the area. Just like anything that has to do with farming, fall calving has both pros and cons, and Ozarks Farm & Neighbor takes a look at both sides of the coin.

Fall Calving Advantages

Lighter calves is usually one of the top items on the “pros” list for fall calving, which is something a producer with a round of first calf heifers might consider. “Fall-calving females tend to have lighter birth weights on their calves due to the hot weather they’ve experienced,” said University of Missouri-Extension Livestock Specialist Eldon Cole.

The blood flow pattern of cows in hot weather changes to disperse heat from the body – this creates less blood flow in the cow’s inner core, and this in turn leads to a lighter calf.

Another plus for fall calving is that the weather tends to be cooler for birthing – lower temperatures can bring less physical stress on the cow.

Calving in the fall can also lead to decreased spread of pathogens, according to Kansas State University, late spring or fall calving offer the advantage of decreasing the contamination and buildup of pathogens that contribute to disease in the newborn calf.

The decreased risk of bad weather in the late spring and fall allows producers to let cows roam to find comfortable surroundings for parturition. When cows are able to find their own calving grounds, it will likely be a long distance from other cows and calves. The chances of spreading pathogens from one pair to another is greatly diminished when space is not restricted.

Fall Calving Disadvantages

Lighter calves, can also be a disadvantage. Fall calves start out smaller than their spring counterparts, it takes them longer to get up to market weight.

According to Noble Research Institute, a big potential disadvantage of fall calving is that this type of herd requires either more feed or better management than a spring calving herd.

Oklahoma State University notes that supplemental feed may be needed for fall calving cows. “With fall calving, the cows will be grazing a cool season grass like fescue, wheat, rye, or strictly on hay. If feeding a low-quality forage or hay, then supplements will be needed.”

Calving in the fall can have plenty of advantages for your operation, but it’s important to choose what works best for your farm.

Some producers, like Chris Penner of Blackgate Beef in Vanzant, Mo., breed for both spring and fall calves. He notes that his preferred season is late spring or fall.


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