Fall calving season may yield higher returns for southeastern beef producers

May 23, 2017 by Tina M. Johnson
While cow-calf producers in Tennessee and the Southeast have long favored a spring calving season, new research from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture indicates possible advantages of a fall calving season. Credit: T. Johnson, courtesy UTIA.

The vast majority of cow-calf producers in Tennessee and the Southeast using a defined calving season have long favored spring calving; however, researchers at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture have evaluated the risk and returns for a fall calving season, proving once again that timing is everything.

Selecting an optimal calving season involves a complex set of factors including nutritional demands of brood cows, forage availability, calf weaning weights, calving rates, seasonality in cattle, and feed prices and labor availability.

Until now, information regarding profitability and risk associated with and fall calving seasons in the southeastern United States has been limited. Addressing this limitation, researchers assessed the potential trade-offs in risk and return of using a fall calving season rather than a spring calving season, while considering the seasonality of cattle and feed prices for least-cost feed rations.

Using simulation models based on 19 years of data, UTIA researchers determined that the fall calving season, calving between mid-September and mid-November, was most profitable and had the smallest amount of variation in profits, meaning fall calving was less risky.

This may seem counterintuitive, as spring calving produces heavier calves at weaning and feed costs are lower. The increased profitability of fall-season calving is due to the higher prices the calves can bring at weaning and an increase in calves weaned per cow.

Cattle production in the United States revolves around a production system in which calves are born during the spring months. However, the southeastern United States is uniquely positioned to take advantage of an alternative fall calving season. Longer growing seasons for forages provide southeastern a competitive advantage over producers to the north in terms of feed costs.

The longer growing season also provides cattle producers in the Southeast an opportune time to calve cattle prior to extreme winter weather events, allowing beef production and availability to be more easily spread throughout the year.

"A fall calving season is not only beneficial for producers, but it can also be beneficial for consumers," said Andrew Griffith, assistant professor at UTIA for Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE) and research coauthor. "The fall calving season can provide for a more uniform distribution of beef production throughout the year, which reduces storage costs and results in lower costs and a fresher product at the retail level."

Information from this research, which was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics (vol. 48, issue 3), can help cow-calf producers in Tennessee and other southeastern states as they navigate the complex decision of choosing a calving . Additional information can be found in the associated UT Extension publication Fall Versus Spring Calving: Considerations and Profitability Comparison.

"While this research indicates possible advantages for fall calving, it is also important to consider the additional costs associated with switching seasons and labor availability in the fall when crops are harvested," said Chris Boyer, ARE assistant professor and research coauthor.

Explore further: Latent effects of blizzard a concern for cow-calf producers

Related Stories

Latent effects of blizzard a concern for cow-calf producers

January 6, 2016

As the snow melts away from Winter Storm Goliath and cattle are gathered back into pens and pastures, cow-calf producers should continue to watch their animals for lingering after-effects, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife ...

Computer model shows breakup of iceberg logjams

March 2, 2017

Projections of how much the melting of ice sheets will contribute to sea-level rise can vary by several meters based on the rate of iceberg calving at the edges of those ice sheets. To provide climate scientists with models ...

Nutrition key to cow efficiency, expert says

November 26, 2013

Heading into the winter months, cattle producers should give careful attention to adequate nutrition of beef cattle, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Endangered right whales deliver fewest births in 17 years

April 12, 2017

Endangered North American right whales gave birth last winter to the fewest calves seen off the U.S. coast in 17 years, troubling scientists who say the low births support other evidence that the imperiled species' population ...

Recommended for you

Scientists edit butterfly wing spots and stripes

September 18, 2017

An international research team working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama knocked-out a single control gene in the DNA of seven different butterfly species. In the Sept. 18 Proceedings of the National ...

Enzyme's worth to biofuels shown in latest research

September 18, 2017

An enzyme discovered at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) proves adept at breaking down cellulose fibers regardless of whether their crystalline structure is simple or highly ...

When it comes to the threat of extinction, size matters

September 18, 2017

Animals in the Goldilocks zone—neither too big, nor too small, but just the right size—face a lower risk of extinction than do those on both ends of the scale, according to an extensive global analysis.

Deep roots in plants driven by soil hydrology

September 18, 2017

Searching for water, some tree roots probe hundreds of feet deep and many trees send roots through cracks in rocks, according to a new study led by a Rutgers University-New Brunswick professor.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.