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Take calving questions with an open mind

Take calving questions with an open mind

What a difference a week makes in the weather. Everything just seems to go a lot more smoothly when you can feel your hands and face.

Calving is still going slow with few enough coming you can give each one your undivided attention. I’ve been getting a lot of questions over social media the last week and a half about why are we calving this time of year.

Here’s the layout: There is a group of recips (surrogates) that are set to calve in February, a group that is set to calve in March, and then those that did not take embryos or were not set up to take embryos start calving around the first of March into April.

There are no heifers in those groups, and all of those cows came back to the ranch from the North Place When I pulled out of the lease last December. Of the cattle that were previously on the ranch, the heifers will start calving May 1, to be followed up shortly by the cows. That group will go a little into June.

So, for those that have been asking why are people calving now, there are a number of reasons. First, the producer is gunning to market those calves this fall. Historically the bigger the calf, the more money they can make, and a lot of times size comes with age. Second, there are producers that farm and want to get calving out of the way before they start planting. Third is mud. A lot of areas will have spring mud and if you think it is challenging to calve in snow, you should try calving in mud.

Fourth, the purebred producers are hoping to put their bull calves into their production sales that usually take place the following year, and they want those calves at a certain weight when they sale them. Fifth, some producers travel quite a ways for summer grazing. That usually starts in this area around May 1, and they want some age on those calves before they go to grass. I’m sure there are many more reasons that I’m missing.

This is the last year that I will be calving anything before April. With the businesses changing, we are going to combine those North Place cows with the Home Place cows. We don’t farm, mud is not really a concern, we are not marketing in the fall, and we prefer to calve on pasture instead of in the lots.

Which means what? Not a dang thing. Just because we prefer a method or a way over someone else does not mean anything.

I’m not for sure when it happened that ranchers now have to defend their preferences. When I say I prefer to do something a certain way, that does not mean that it’s the only way to do it. What it means is that I prefer my way with my situation, with my environment, with my herd, with my goals, and most importantly, with my time.

So how can we do better as an industry? I think the very first thing that we need to do is to start realizing the diversity. Breeds are different, environment is different, situations are different. Even something so simple as access to working facilities can have a huge impact on management styles.

Compared to other agriculture industries I think we have a huge opportunity to share our diversity, not only amongst other producers but with those that may not have a clue.

I got into a conversation with a gentleman this last week on costs. I was asked the question which herd I prefer to calve out: the February-March herd, the May-June herd or the fall herd? We were going over advantages and disadvantages of all three. When we were comparing what it costs me on a per-day basis for each herd with what it costs him for similar time frames, the numbers were night and day difference.

There were a couple of reasons for that. He was in an area where the winters aren’t as challenging as western Nebraska. He had better availability to feed. (Right now feed costs are ridiculous because of the drought and how far we have to truck it.) We both raised some of our own feed, but he wasn’t factoring in the costs like labor and equipment to put it up, where as I was.

The point is that we had a great discussion. We were both able to learn and share. In the end, I will admit I was a little green with envy because of some of the resources that he has that are not as readily available here. At the same time, he was envious because of all the summer grazing to which we have access.

So, here’s my five-second soap box: Be a little more open minded. If someone has a preference, ask them why. Once we become a little more open minded within our own industry, maybe we can start focusing on what I think really matters. That is sharing with those outside our industry. We have to learn how to walk before we can start running.

Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at This column represents the views of one person and are not necessarily the opinion of the Midwest Messenger.   

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Jaclyn Wilson raises Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. Send comments to her at

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