In livestock production, we live with the consequences of yesterdays decisions today, sometimes from choices made months if not years in the past. This simple truth supports the philosophy that diligent time management and planning yield the best result(s). As I write this article, I can hear my dad's voice championing a "5 P's": prior planning prevents poor performance. (If only I had a dollar for every time I heard that growing up). If we know how important time management is, then how do we go about filling in the blanks on our operation's calendar?
It is our responsibility to design a management plan that allows a beef cow to successfully conceive, deliver, nurse and wean her calf, while regaining pregnancy with her subsequent calf, all in a 365-day window. Couple that schedule with an annual grazing/forage management plan and it can quickly become overwhelming. However, there are tools available to help ranchers create a timeline with some fundamental management activities.
About Cattle Calculator
The Cattle Calculator app by Mississippi State University Extension puts multiple key tools in a producer's hands, such as a breeding season scheduler, average daily gain and required gain calculators, and a dosage calculator, just to name a few. Calculators are broken into three groups: reproductive, performance and management. The app is available as a free download for both Apple and Android devices. Learn more at extension.msstate.edu/agriculture/livestock/beef
The breeding season scheduler in the reproductive tab is very simple to use and easy to understand. Once the user knows when they are turning bulls in with the cow herd and the duration of the calving season they desire, the tool will generate the dates associated with the calving season (when to turn bulls in, remove bulls and estimated start/stop dates with that calving event). Since Bos-indicus-influenced cattle have a longer gestation length than Bos-Taurus-influenced cattle, there is an option to select which scenario best fits your herd. Other timetables include calving date and breeding date as well as a tool that populates the length of pregnancy in days if breeding date is known.
In the performance tab, users can find calculators for adjusted birth weight, weaning weight and yearling weight, as well as average daily gain and required gain. Once again, this is simple to use but does require all fields to be completed before a result can be tabulated.
The third tab contains management tools, including a dosage calculator, a yield and frame score calculator, and a stock density calculator to be used before loading cattle onto a trailer.
In summary, this free application contains many tools that cattle producers can benefit from using. The ability to easily construct a defined calving season, administer a vaccine at a proper dose, or predict animal gain or performance can aid in making management decisions that will have lasting effects on the viability and performance of not only the cattle but the ranch itself.