Today, most progressive operations have elected to calve their heifers in front of their cowherd and run their yearling heifers under a shortened breeding season (45-60 days). Yet, traditionally they don't pregnancy check the heifers until fall, marketing any open females.

It may be time to reconsider that timing. Many areas are in a drought condition. Carrying open heifers through the summer utilizes valuable resources that could be used to sustain animals carrying pregnancies. Plus, the marketplace is providing ample incentive to getting those heifers to town as soon as possible.

With the new restrictions on cattle more than 30 months of age, producers are getting leery of any cattle that won't be out of the feedyard much beyond their second birthday. The risk and discounts are considerable for cattle that might "mouth out" over the age limits.

In addition, prices for feeder heifers are at near-record highs. Economists estimate that the value difference between an open heifer this summer and one in the fall could be significant, as much as $250-$300/head.

Certainly, for many management scenarios, it isn't practical to preg check before fall. But, skilled veterinarians can detect pregnancy rates at 60 months of age, and those with ultrasound capabilities only need a month or less to detect pregnancies.

For many producers there may be sufficient economic incentive to start planning their preg checking and marketing programs on first-calf heifers not long after the bulls have been pulled.