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For most beef cow herds, the single most important means of increasing income is increasing the number of calves weaned and sold relative to the number of cows in the operation, or by definition, increasing reproductive efficiency. While certain production and carcass traits can be most directly influenced by genetic selection, reproductive performance is overwhelmingly influenced by management. Increasing the profitability of a ranch operation therefore relies very heavily on adjusting management practices to improve reproductive efficiency. In order to accomplish this, we first need to know what factors are most influential in reproductive performance. We specifically need to identify those factors that can be improved by changes in management. Individual ranchers need to assess which of these are most important in their operation and which can be improved in an economically viable fashion.
The aims of this presentation are to highlight the factors that most commonly affect calf health and survival, identify the management practices that influence them, and evaluate how effectively we institute these practices at present. There is considerable information available about management factors that improve calf survival, but much of it is not being employed.