Calving in April and weaning during August may produce a lighter calf, but with feed costs at record levels, cow-calf producers will see better returns under this production system, according to Kansas State University Associate Professor KC Olson. Adopting this schedule helps match peak nutrient availability, specifically grass production, with the cow’s nutritional requirements for milk production.

He made the recommendation to about 200 beef producers and industry stakeholders attending the KLA/K-State Ranch Management Field Day at the ML Ranch near Peru, in Chautauqua County.

Olson says most producers feed hay from mid-October to mid-April. At an estimated harvest cost of $70/ton, feed costs add up in a hurry. He suggested leaving cows on dormant warm-season grass and providing 1.5 lbs./day of supplemental protein through the winter and early spring. Research has proven this allows cows to maintain body condition, while reducing feed costs by $150/head. Early weaning offers some of the same advantages.

“Selling a lighter calf would seem to put you at a disadvantage, but in this feed cost environment, the net return will be better,” Olson says.