Dallin is an A.I. technician for Genex, and it's his busy season. In response, my husband, Craig, says, "I think the mistake that people make, though, is not having a high enough bull stocking rate. With that system we are making, all the cows come into heat at the same time. You need to lean on the high side of bull needs."
They are talking about a "trick" we started doing a few years ago on our herd. We were working on developing our bull genetics, so we used A.I. on most of the cows, but there were a few commercial cows we just let the clean-up bull catch. Since we were working cows anyway, we started giving prostaglandin shots to everything, including the commercial cows. The registered cows were sorted into another pen. We’d watch them for heat and continue the A.I. protocol. The rest were put right out with the bulls. Ideally, the cows would be bulling in 48-96 hours. If the bulls did their job, we'd have a raintight calving window. But if we understocked bulls, the bulls wouldn't keep up, and they'd miss cows, pushing them back an entire cycle.
Back to the conversation. I add, "I think one of the things that must turn guys off, though, is the need to work cows another time. It works for us, but we are bringing cows through the chute anyway."
"But," Craig starts for the argument, "tightening up the calving season pays huge dividends. You've got a more uniform calf crop and, with today's prices, 50 or 60 pounds more on a calf is an extra 100 dollars a head. I think that is worth running the chute.”
"True," I say, "but with the right bull stocking rates, everything should breed up in the first six weeks anyway. If they don't, I think they should be culled. Luting seems like a way to let inferior reproductive genetics slide by."
In theory, I don't really disagree with Craig, but I like to argue for the sake of the discussion. Dallin thinks our little squabble is funny, and I want to make people laugh. I also believe Craig tends to intimidate people, though I know he doesn't mean to. If I challenge him a little bit, I think it gives other people "permission" to do so, too, and there is nothing I like more than a good debate.
One of my sisters-in-law (the other one, not Dallin's daughter) says that we rarely just have a friendly conversation in our family. She says we either talk about cows and ways to make money, or we are arguing. Craig argues her point: "What else is there to talk about?"
Erica Ramsey Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.