By Bill Gardner
The weather in NM is always challenging and this year was more difficult than most. Like a lot of other ranches, we dealt with a historic blizzard followed by an extremely dry spring and summer at Yeso. Here is how our low maintenance cows fared. We frequently talk about the importance of low-input cows. This year gave us the chance to “walk the walk” after we “talked the talk”. When we weaned early in September we had received 3 to 4 inches of moisture for the year.
We individually weigh every cow, every year at weaning. The cow weights are a good indicator of the kind of year we had when compared to weights from years past. I averaged the 36 cows born in 2009 and 2010 to see how their weights had changed year to year. They averaged 1229 lbs in 2014, 1185 lbs in 2015 and 1042 lbs in 2016. The cows were nearly 200 lbs lighter than two years ago and 143 lbs lighter than in 2015.
Looking at these cows at weaning, I was concerned about our possible pregnancy rate. We had bulls out for 80 days and these cows were likely losing weight for much of that period. We quit supplementing (other than mineral) in May and did not start again until after the bulls were picked up in July. Despite this, we were very pleased with the pregnancy results.
As expected, the younger cows had a harder time breeding back. Especially the three year olds who were running with and managed with the mature cows. Nonetheless, we were pleased with these results. We believe these are the kind of cows that will get you through the tough years. They certainly did for us.
A couple of other notes of interest. After we weaned, we received some September rains which greened up the ranch. We weighed some of the cows about 60 days post weaning and they had gained 200 lbs. They are going in to winter in good shape. With just a little bit of green the cows really snapped back. Also, despite the drought and heat, the calves’ health has been perfect. We have a strong vaccination program, but we were still concerned about the health of the calves. So far we have not treated a single calf.