With cow herd numbers at the smallest level since 1962, along with recent moderation in grain prices and optimism for growth in domestic and export demand, the stage is set for expansion of the national beef cow herd.
These factors have led to increased heifer retention numbers over the past two years, but environmental and financial concerns have tempered that optimism, according to Patrick Gunn, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef cow-calf specialist.
"Recent droughts in many areas of the U.S., coupled with increased feed prices and land prices, have undoubtedly hampered realization of true expansion to date," Gunn said. "However, with both fed and feeder cattle markets now at record levels, it appears the national cow herd is ready to expand."
The recent price boom in all sectors of the beef industry translates to increased value (and cost) of replacement breeding stock, so it's vital for enterprises looking at expansion to understand how to maximize reproductive efficiency, according to Gunn.
Two years ago, the Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State began offering educational opportunities aimed at helping producers learn to successfully develop a heifer to breeding age.
"In conjunction with the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, in 2012 the Iowa Beef Center offered a successful statewide educational program entitled Heifer Development: Rebuilding Our Future," he said. "Through this program, best management practices from weaning to pregnancy-check were outlined and resources shared."
IBC continues to receive requests for the information shared during the program and is now making the resources available online.
Resources currently include eight videos highlighting best management practices and will be expanded as additional resources are identified, IBC said. They can be viewed on the heifer development webpage.
View one of the videos, Nutrition of Developing Beef Heifers, below.