Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 2001


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XVII December 11, 12, and 13, 2001 - Casper, Wyoming.


Every ranch is backed by a unique set of resources. The resources are used to cost effectively produce a consumer acceptable product. Ranch resources can be simply categorized into forage base, genetics base and the commitment to good management practices. Range cattle management must be based on relating forage quality and quantity to the nutrient requirements of the animal for a given level of production. In order to be cost effective it is important that the forage base optimally express the genetic potential of the cowherd, with little or no supplemental feed.

Today’s rancher, according to Jim Gosey of the University of Nebraska, must define optimum levels of performance within the limit of his own resources. The levels of performance must be defined within the restriction of not only the available resources, but input costs as well. Harlan Ritchie, Michigan State University, feels that lowering production costs will become more important than improving biological efficiency. Most certainly, the producer is challenged daily to balance the two.

It is important to match the production cycle with the quality and availability of forage. It is a well-known fact that the nutrient requirements of the beef cow are highest two to three months prior to calving and about the same length after calving. For cost effective management it is important that high quality and quantity forage nutrient supply coincide as closely as possible with calving date. There are several considerations when selecting a calving season. Primary considerations include the total pounds of calf or yearling produced on the ranch and the cost return ratio of feed, labor and protection. Another consideration would be the effect on replacement heifers and their lifetime productivity. Of course the decision must also be made within the constraints of the goals, management and marketing strategies of the ranch.