Why Yearlings?

Over the last couple of weeks we have been completing spring processing of the yearlings going to grass.

If you have been reading this blog over the last year you have noticed we mention the yearling program. But why yearlings? Most cow/calf operations don’t have yearlings. Or do they?

Some cow/calf operations purchase breeding heifers but others, like ours, develop their own heifers. These are heifer calves chosen to be put back into the herd as replacements. Any operation developing their own heifers will have yearlings going to grass that will be bred heifers in the fall. This year as we select replacement heifers we are seeing the new genetics brought into the herd when we had some cows AI’d (artificial insemination) two years ago. Some of these new genes will be staying in the herd.

But we do more than that. We keep all of our calves and purchase more to background and go to grass. They are typically sold in August or September (sometimes as late as October). Why would anyone choose to use all that grass for yearlings when they could have more cows instead? Well, in our situation it is part of a drought plan. Living in the semi-arid shortgrass prairie drought is no stranger. Some might even call it a desert, just a thin blanket of grass avoids this designation. In dry years when there is not enough grass for everything, we have the option to sell the yearlings earlier than intended (say June or July). This means we don’t have to be selling our cows in order to avoid overgrazing pastureland, then re-building our herd the next year. We always have enough grass to keep the cows.



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