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Preparing Cattle For Spring: A February/March Cattle Management Checklist


It's calving season! If your ranch follows most producers' guidelines, preparing cattle for springtime is essential for your herd's wellbeing. Proper calf management is critical to increase herd performance and potential profit. Keeping your cattle on a schedule, doing your research, and maintaining grazing pastures are non-negotiables for healthy, profitable cattle operations. Keep reading to learn how you can implement the best practices for your herds! 

Calving Season Preparation and Recovery:

In February, cattle managers’ main focus should be on calving preparation and recovery. As far as preparation goes, move any bred heifers to the calving area at least 10 days before calving is expected and purchase any additional bulls. Once calving begins, observe heifers every 3-4 hours and be prepared to assist in delivery. Shortly after birth, dip their navels in an iodine solution and check for obvious nutritional or physical issues. Move calves and their mothers to clean pastures as soon as possible. Save yourself heartache later by ear tagging your calves and keeping organized birth records. Some calves may need help being nursed, and a salt mineral/vitamin mix should be added to cows’ feed. When it comes to heifers, now is the time to revaccinate any expecting mothers for enterotoxemia, enteritis, and scours.

In March, some heifers will still be calving. Continue the same practices as the previous month and switch any heifers to a lactation ration 10-15 days after calving. Continue to observe calves for scours and respiratory problems and observe cows for prolapse and retained placentas. Utilizing the birth records recorded at birth, after approximately 2 months, castrate bull calves and dehorn as appropriate. 

Proper Pasture Management: 

March is also the prime time to plan your pasture management and feeding program for the herd’s newest generation. As a general rule, it’s ideal to maintain one animal unit (cow with calf) per 8 - 15 acres on native grass, 3 - 6 acres on tame pastures, and 50 - 75 acres in wooded areas. These numbers are based on moderate to light stocking rates for well-managed pastures in the Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairie region. Always do some research and find the proper stocking rate for your area. If possible, implement rotational grazing so each pasture can recover between grazing periods. Rotating livestock through multiple pastures helps pastures maintain nutrient density for multiple herds and encourages the growth of seed-producing grasses and flowering plants.

Best Practices for Vaccinating, Castrating, Implanting, and Deworming:

Successful managers can improve operations by adopting more cost-effective approaches towards vaccinating, castrating, implanting, and deworming calves. Small herd operations are the least likely to adopt these management practices, which is a costly mistake that could result in thousands of dollars lost per year. For example, cattle castration is only practiced by 60% of small herd operations but has been proven to increase net cash farm income by 31.8% over a 10-year period. A study conducted by Texas A&M’s Agricultural Department shows that South Texas ranches may increase their net cash farm income over a 10-year period by:

  • 63.7 percent if they administer clostridial vaccinations against blackleg to all calves.
  • 31.8 percent if they castrate bull calves and implant all calves.
  • 19.9 percent if they deworm all cattle and calves.
  • 119.9 percent if they implement all four practices—clostridial vaccinations, castrating, implanting, and deworming. 

Small herd operations, namely herds of less than 50 heads, are the least likely to implement these practices, and therefore have the greatest potential for profit loss.

When it comes to cattle management, every season is an exercise in forward-thinking and patience. Preparation is the key to success, but it’s still possible to implement these practices and schedules to pre-existing herds. Building your legacy is all about stewardship, so do as much as you can with what you’ve been given.

 To find the perfect farm and ranch property of your dreams, contact Legacy Broker Group at 830-446-3378.

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Posted by Richmond Frasier • Partner on

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