Fall calving used to increase beef production

 By Eric Killelea
Yellowstone Newspapers

Fall calving is a new endeavor for Jay and Cherié Taylor of Fallon. The husband and wife and owners of Montaylor Farms included August through September calving this year for one primary reason: to have year-round, all-natural beef production.
“We wanted to constantly grow cattle so our supply is more uniform throughout the year,” Jay said.
Jay and Cherié have owned Montaylor Farms for the past five years, an all-natural beef business that delivers their product within 250-mile radius of Fallon.
Cherié said the business has seen a clientele base wanting to purchase half and whole beefs in the month of April when tax returns come in.
“Our challenge as a grower was thinking outside of the box,” she said. 
“How would we provide beef at least eight months out of the year?”
Bruce Smith, Montana State University Extension agent in Dawson County, said non-traditional fall calving has been a growing trend in the state due to high beef demand.
“Calving in the fall should supply a steady amount of meat,” Smith said. “But maybe less than 1 percent of cattle producers in Montana do fall calving.”
Jay said there has seen several challenges in fall calving. He said the heat has certainly played a factor as they started calving Aug. 24 when local weather hit over 100 degrees.
“The abnormal weather was a challenge in this four-season state,” Cherié said. “It was warm and hot and dry. It was challenging for the cows in a calving situation.”
Another challenge was breeding the cows at the end of last November.
“It wasn’t as natural for the cows to breed when it’s cold as compared to the spring,” Jay said. “But we synchronized the cows so they breed in one little package to shorten the breeding period.”
Still, calving is only one part of producing year-round beef.
“We had to maintain the proper level of nutrition in order for cows to nurse the calves through the winter,” Jay said. “The cows required a different nutritional level with and without the calf.”
“It has been more expensive to winter that cow for nutritional needs instead of normal cows,” he added.
The Taylors said calving in the spring has its benefits. Spring grass offers nutrients at their peak. In the fall, everything is starting to winterize and those missing nutrients must be supplemented.
To address this, the Taylors have cut their own alfalfa and hay for feed. This has helped nursing cows which need extra calories and nutrients.
“We have provided the required nutrients with high-quality protein hay,” Cherié said. “And we’re able to maintain those levels of nutrition by substituting the hay for spring pastures.”
Cherié said she is pleased with the results from the fall crop of calves. She said the family has already discovered merits to fall calving: Bull expenses are spread out over more cows with two distinct breeding seasons and there is more flexibility in the marketing plan.
Also, the benefits of growing their own replacement heifers has met their all-natural standards.
Peggy Iba, manager of Farm-to-Table, agreed, saying the store carries the family’s peppers, beef and great, all-natural hotdogs.
“We started carrying them after the AAU wrestling tournament in February,” Iba said. “And people raved about them!”
The Taylors said the challenge now is to deliver fresh, natural beef product on a year-round bases as opposed to a very seasonal time frame which they had previously operated on.

Publish October 17, 2012

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