reproductive cycle of cows

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12 years 8 months ago #28274 by caro
Probably a silly question, but as you all know, I'm a rank beginner at this!! what is the reproductive cycle of a cow? At the moment we have a hereford yearling going in the freezer around may. We were going to buy a spring weaner to bring on for the freezer also, but buying them this way is around $500 a pop, so was wondering, thinking long term, if it is worth getting a heifer and breeding our own stock (maybe from a neighbours bull or something). But would really like to know how old before the heifer can reproduce, and what the cycle is please??

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12 years 8 months ago #387006 by hilldweller
Well the safe 'normal' option would be to put the heifer in calf at 2 and a bit years to calve at three, and then each year thereafter. Gestation is 9 and a bit months (283 days give or take a week).

You'd need to be able to wean the calf which might be a bit tricky if you only have one cow and one calf on a small block. Weaning age anywhere between 6 and 10 months.

hilldweller

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12 years 8 months ago #387007 by Ruth
Replied by Ruth on topic reproductive cycle of cows
No, it's not, in my opinion, a very good idea as a method of saving money. Cattle are herd animals, so are not particularly happy on their own. Heifers are in season (on heat) every three weeks from sometime in their first year of life, but you'll have to suffer the noise, and her trying to get to a bull, for several months before you should let her have one, and then you shouldn't just use the neighbour's bull unless you happen to know he has small calves. Gestation is nine months, then the cow will start coming on heat again about six weeks later. Some people calve at two years old, but doing that as an inexperienced person with one animal is tricky. You'd not do it unless the heifer was well-grown, and people's perception of when that is can vary a great deal. Commercial farmers and those of us who do it routinely, do it by minimum body weight before mating.

Calving can be dangerous, both for heifer and her calf. If you have no experience at all and things don't go well, how will you know there's a problem, so will you know when to get help, etc.

That sounds very negative, I know. You can buy a pile of trouble this way, or you might be lucky and it would go like a dream.

If you're paying $500 for a spring-born dairy-cross weaner, you might as well buy an autumn beef weaner, which has passed through its most dangerous calf-hood and will be mostly trouble-free until it goes in the freezer.

If the $500 is a problem maybe your budget is too tight to keep large animals, bearing in mind that if there is a calving problem and you have to get a vet out to help, it could well cost you around $200, depending on where you are and when it is.

Do ask more questions though!

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12 years 8 months ago #387009 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic reproductive cycle of cows
Heifers will come on heat anywhere from 4 months old for little precocious Jerseys to 12 months or more for the later maturing breeds (Highlands?) Somewhere between 6 and 9 months is common, and then they cycle every 21 days!

Non of them should be bred/put to a bull untill they are mature enough, which will mean a minimum of 15 months old for the majority, providing they are well enough grown for their breed-which will vary-but probably 300kgs liveweight would be a good target.

This will mean these animalsw ill calve around their second birthday, no heifer should calve earlier than that, unless by accident and then you will have to be super careful to observe her or even be prepared to abort her, depending on her age and the size of the bull.
Some breeds, and Highlands are amongst these, prefer not to calve until the heifers are 3 years old.

I would be cautious about 'a rank beginner' starting off breeding with a heifer. A new mother can sometimes be a problem, multiplied if the owner is also a beginner. If you must breed your own, start off with an experienced older cow!

I see your thoughts are to breed your own perhaps to save money! Remember you have to graze the cow for a full year, as well as the offspring, probably for 2 years. Yes, good weaners will cost between $350 to $500 depending on what age you buy them and when they are ready for the freezer they are worth upwards of $1,000.

They are that price because that is how much it costs to get them to weaning age for the breeder-they don't come free when you breed your own!

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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12 years 8 months ago #387010 by Ruth
Replied by Ruth on topic reproductive cycle of cows
We should all farm by committee! Mind you, I suppose that's what experience is. :)

I mean that we've all three provided different aspects of the right answers.

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12 years 8 months ago #387011 by hilldweller

Sue;380807 wrote: but probably 300kgs liveweight would be a good target.

Did you really mean to type 300 Sue?:confused:

hilldweller

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12 years 8 months ago #387012 by caro
Replied by caro on topic reproductive cycle of cows
Sounds like a bit of a minefield!! It's not that the $500 is a problem, just wondered if there was a better way, I admit I have been watching the neighbours cows calve over the last few weeks and just started thinking. The yearling we have now is in with the horses for company and he seems happy, and as said we plan to get a weaner, and then when one goes in the freezer replace it so we always have two on the go, I think we will just stick with the original plan!! thanks for saving me from myself!!!!

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12 years 8 months ago #387014 by Valmai
Replied by Valmai on topic reproductive cycle of cows
When buying weaners it is wise to know the market. You could buy a 3mth 100kg freisian bull in Nov. for $350. Jan/April you could buy that same animal for $280 even though he is older and heavier.

Carbon-based biological unit.

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12 years 8 months ago #387016 by Ruth
Replied by Ruth on topic reproductive cycle of cows

hilldweller;380809 wrote: Did you really mean to type 300 Sue?:confused:

300kg is the general recommendation, particularly if including the dairy-cross breeds. I use 320kg as my minimum, having not been happy with heifers which started off under that weight. That's for 15 month heifers.

caro;380810 wrote: Sounds like a bit of a minefield!! It's not that the $500 is a problem, just wondered if there was a better way, I admit I have been watching the neighbours cows calve over the last few weeks and just started thinking. The yearling we have now is in with the horses for company and he seems happy, and as said we plan to get a weaner, and then when one goes in the freezer replace it so we always have two on the go, I think we will just stick with the original plan!! thanks for saving me from myself!!!!

I think breeding is for people who are breeding because they specifically want to breed. People who breed cattle just because they can, or leave the cattle to do it on their own, often end up with animals which aren't much to write home about. They probably have pretty eyelashes, but they're not so great on the skillet.

Valmai;380812 wrote: When buying weaners it is wise to know the market. You could buy a 3mth 100kg freisian bull in Nov. for $350. Jan/April you could buy that same animal for $280 even though he is older and heavier.

But who'd want to eat a Freisian bull? If you find a good breeder with good beef weaners and pay $600, you're probably still well ahead of the game compared with supermarket/butchery prices for meat.

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12 years 8 months ago #387026 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic reproductive cycle of cows

We should all farm by committee! Mind you, I suppose that's what experience is. :)

I mean that we've all three provided different aspects of the right answers.


Lucky we are all on the same page isn't it!, or as you add, all speaking from our collective experience.

Did you really mean to type 300 Sue?:confused:


Yes!!! As Ruth explained that is around the recommended weight. Infact I think when we started mating 2 yr olds, the heifer weight recommendations for commercial British breeds and their crosses was between 280 and 300kgs! I was generalising a bit thinking that some folks would have dairy crosses with a bit of Jersey and they may well be 300kgs or below at 15 months.

I have just looked back at the weights of our heifers that are currently calving as 2 year olds and in September last year, a month before they went to the bull, they weighed 348,364,340,374,380,337 and 323kgs.
The one that weighed 374 kgs didn't get in calf and went to the works and the one that weighed 380 kgs aborted a 6month old embryo in June :( so you just never know.

Caro, yours was not a silly question, but a very good one and hopefully many that also were contemplating just the same as you, but were afraid to ask, will have learnt something too!

That is exactly what this forum is for, and through our collective experiences we can help others to avoid falling into the traps that some of us may already have tripped into or managed to swerve around![;)]

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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12 years 8 months ago #387028 by thevarneys
Caro if you wanted milk too and got free milk by milking your own cow I have worked out that the expenses of having/breeding a cow would be worth it. All beginners started somewhere, and even the 'pros' had to have a first time! We are in a similar position to you, need meat and milk, are doing everything we can to be educated, and are going to do our best to make it work. Gosh we spend upwards of $1820 p/a on milk alone (thats based on 2.5 litres p/day), not counting other dairy products. So even buying in hay/balage for our cows still works out that we will eventually get our money back once we are milking.

Some people are so poor, all they have is money.

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12 years 8 months ago #387029 by Ruth
Replied by Ruth on topic reproductive cycle of cows
But then as a new person to cattle, you'd want to spend some decent money on a house-cow, not just a beef weaner to hopefully milk when she calved. That idea is somewhat fraught with pitfalls too.

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12 years 8 months ago #387031 by hilldweller
Sue and Ruth - thanks for clarifying. The figure I had in my head was 400 or 2/3 of adult weight, which would be 400 or thereabouts for my lot.

hilldweller

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12 years 8 months ago #387032 by Ruth
Replied by Ruth on topic reproductive cycle of cows
That's probably the recommended calving weight. This something I'm working on right now, actually, in my own herd data, seeing where they really were at each of those crucial points, now that I have data on a number of cattle over their whole lives.

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12 years 8 months ago #387033 by Rothwell
Replied by Rothwell on topic reproductive cycle of cows
Our cows mostly have some Fresian in them, except for the purebred/pedigree Ayreshire.
We were going to do the clever thing which is what you are currently doing, but when Europe got BSE in the mid 1990s our $180 purebred Murray Grey heifer calves became unsaleable. We didn't have enough freezer space to shoot them and use them for dog food :-(.
So we bought a purebred Shorthorn bull, paid about $300 each for grazing, and sold the MGs ready to calve for $400.
We also handreared some calves, because we had heard that you can sell handreared calves for $500 each. Yeah, right ..... we know better now. When they were big enough we borrowed a yearling bull to prove him. He was an embryo transplant from a USA class/type winner. But .... he made huge calves which grew poorly :-(. We had to calve ever single cow that year, and a couple of calves died because I only did 4 rounds per day, so didn't get to the cow in time to help her. The next bull had some Simmental in him, and that too caused huge calving problems.
The neighbour was going to make cheese from her Jersey X probably Fresian hand-reared calf. So she mated it when it was about 18 months and a good size. She used a low birthweight MG AI straw. We had to help the calf out, but fortunately she has a neighbour with a huge amount of calving experience .....
And then there was the time that none of our cows got pregnant. We were unable to feed them enough, and we removed the bull early to conserve feed ......
Calving can be fun. We got our first calf of the season yesterday. But we have had to get almost every imaginable device to do it easily. Cattle yards, calving chains, lube, headbale ..... only things we don't have are a calving jack and an embryotomy wire..... and oxytocin.

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