STOCKTON, Mo. — “As the year ends cattle producers look back at the previous year and evaluate the productivity and profitability of their cattle operation,” says Patrick Davis MU Extension Livestock Field Specialist. Davis urges cattle producers at the same time to evaluate their recordkeeping system to determine if it is successful. Is the system working or does it need improvement? Davis will provide recordkeeping strategies to help cattle producers start the year off on the right foot.
“Recordkeeping starts with proper cattle identification,” says Davis. Two nationally known identification systems are the four-digit system or the letter and 3-digit system.
The first number of the four-digit system represents the last digit of the calf birth year. The rest of the numbers in the four-digit system represent the calf’s birth order that year. For example, the identification of the 56th calf born in 2023 is 3056. One problem with this system is the potential for identification duplication of the cows that are 10 years or older with younger cows in the herd.
“The letter and 3-digit system reduces potential cow identification duplication in the herd because it uses a letter to represent the year,” says Davis. The letter represents the year the calf was born and three digits represent the calf birth order during that year. For example, L was the letter assigned to 2023, so L056 is the identification number for the 56th calf born in 2023. The letter changes yearly in sequential order except I, O, Q, and V are not used for identification.
“For the identification system to be used properly in recordkeeping the identification markings need to be permanent and easy to read,” says Davis. Suggested calf identification markings include ear tagging, ear tattooing, and branding. Since ear tattooing and branding are permanent Davis would suggest these in addition to ear tagging. Ear tattooing is a little simpler to do and requires less preparation so it is preferred over branding. Davis also suggests that for proper cattle operation recordkeeping, ear tattooing and tagging should be done as soon as possible after the calf is born.
“The recordkeeping system should evaluate the entire cattle herd’s productivity so it can be useful in determining successes and problems within the cattle operation,” says Davis. Davis suggests the three areas to look at are the breeding season, calving, and weaning which he will go into more depth below.
“Looking at cattle records as it relates to the breeding season is helpful in determining reproductive efficiency of the cattle operation,” says Davis. Cattle producers should record the number of bred cows and heifers and compare that to the total number of cows and heifers that were exposed during the breeding season. This determines pregnancy percentage which evaluates reproductive efficiency of the cattle operation. In addition, Davis suggests that cattle producers identify and cull the open cows and heifers so that resources can be dedicated to productive cows and heifers in the operation.
“After calving determine calving percentage by comparing number of cows with live calves to the number of cows and heifers that were exposed during the previous breeding season,” says Davis. This measurement evaluates calf death loss due to dystocia (calving difficulty), spontaneous abortion, or any other reproductive health problems. Also, Davis urges cattle producers to cull any cows that lost their calves during this time so resources can be dedicated to productive cows in the operation.
“Multiple records and analysis can be used to evaluated cow herd productivity at weaning time,” says Davis. First look at weaning percentage by comparing the number of weaned calves by the number of animals exposed during the previous breeding season. This evaluates calf death loss from calving to weaning. There are multiple ways to analyze calf weaning weight as it relates to cattle herd productivity which includes:
- Comparison of pounds of weaned calves per cows exposed during the previous breeding season. This measurement ultimately tells the cattle producer the productivity of their herd.
- Comparison of calf weaning weight to cow body size at weaning. This measurement is an indicator of how productive each individual cow is which can be very useful in identification of productive females that should be retained and poor producing females that should be removed from the herd to improve herd productivity.
Davis suggests contacting your local MU Extension Livestock Field Specialist for more information on how to use a cow recordkeeping system to make your cattle operation successful.
— MU Extension