Dr. Rachel Endecott Speaks to Declining Calf Crop Percentage

January 15, 2024 - If beef production was perfect, all our cows and heifers would get pregnant in the first 21 days of breeding season, calve unassisted about 9 – 9 ½ months later and wean off a calf weighing 50% of their mature weight about 6 – 7 months after calving. (1)

Sounds lovely, right? While we know that perfect mark is rarely, if ever reached, the reality of the cattle industry is that we are getting further away from the ideal right at the get-go. Our calf crop percentage, the number of calves weaned divided by number of cows exposed, has been on the decline for the past thirty-seven years according to data pulled by Dr. Derrell Peel with Oklahoma State University.

How could this be? We’re focusing on genetics. We’ve never had more nutrition information. And yet we’re not weaning as many calves per number exposed cows as we were in 1986.

We had to dial up Dr. Rachel Endecott, former extension beef cattle specialist with Montana State University and current Montana rancher…

“I think some of that, if we look at that same kind of time period, there’s been a lot been a lot of change in what we've demanded of the cattle: we've got some serious cow size changes, we've got some serious milk production increases, lots of performance, lots of growth. And I don't know that we could say that our forage base or what we're you know pasturing or feeding those cows has changed as dramatically in those four decades.”

Curious to learn more? Rachel will be presenting on this topic during Montana’s Next Generation Conference January 27th in Shelby. You can also check out this discussion in the “Cow-Calf Corner” newsletter from Oklahoma State University Extension.

(1) https://extension.okstate.edu/programs/beef-extension/cow-calf-corner-the-newsletter-archives/2023/october-2-2023.html