There is much value in preg-checking spring-calving cow herds in the fall. The most common is to cull open cows from the herd. The second reason would be to reduce the number of late calving cows in the herd.

Late calving cows, while pregnant, may require expensive inputs, increased labor requirements, and a loss of income potential when selling calves. Operations need to consider the management changes to mitigate the costs these cows add to the herd and their calves’ effect on income potential.

Feeding Considerations

The nutritional needs of cows vary during the trimesters of pregnancy. If cows are calving in the 4th or 5th 21-day calving intervals, they should be sorted from the rest of the herd and managed differently. The cows calving in the 1st vs. 4th interval have different nutritional needs. The late calving cow, not managed as such, consumes an increased nutrition plane during two 21-day intervals or 42 days.

The operation with facilities to manage cows that will calve at different intervals appropriately would be able to feed various rations appropriate to their nutrient requirements.

Labor Requirements

With a narrower calving season, labor requirements may be intense during the peak of calving. However, the smaller calving window frees up labor to do other things instead of monitoring calving cows and new calves.

Further labor requirements may result if the younger calves backgrounded longer than their contemporaries. Facilities, feed, and yardage add to the cost of production for these animals.

Income Potential

Compared to earlier calving cows, a late calving cow’s profitability is generally less due to the younger and smaller calf weaned. To compare profits, Table 1 includes data from 2 example herds with different calving intervals. There is an income increase of $21,000 for the herd, with a narrower calving season in this herd. There is a $107 per calf income change on a cow basis, given the cost to feed and maintain a cow for the year, which may be a significant profitability component.


Evaluate your operation and utilize the calving distribution calculator to determine when your cow herd calved in 2020. Combine that information with sale barn weights and prices. Further, consider developing a full feed and health budget for the cow herd to determine the cost of raising the 2020 calf crop. Determine profit through subtraction.

Making a Change

Utilization of the Integrated Resource Management “Red Book” for calf data and forage use can help determine calving intervals and feed use. The Red Book is available from many SDSU Extension professionals and offices.

Many management decisions can help operations improve conception rates, reduce post-partum intervals, and improve profitability. These topics are part of the upcoming beefUP production meetings.


Approximate Month Born Calving Interval Calves Born Average Weaning Weight Pounds Sold Price Per Pound* Dollars Per Interval
April First 21 days 70 550 38,500 $1.86 $71,610.00
May 22-42 days 67 500 33,500 $1.82 $60,970.00
June 43-63 days 26 450 11,700 $1.77 $20,709.00
July 64-84 days 24 400 9,600 $1.69 $16,224.00
August 85+ days 13 350 4,550 $1.62 $7,371.00
Total 200 489 97,850 $1.81 $176,884.00


Approximate Month Born Calving Interval Calves Born Average Weaning Weight Pounds Sold Price Per Pound* Dollars Per Interval
April First 21 days 147 550 80,850 $1.86 $150,381.00
May 22-42 days 50 500 25,000 $1.82 $45,500.00
June 43-63 days 3 450 1,350 $1.77 $2,389.50
July 64-84 days 0 400 0 $1.69
August 85+ days 0 350 0 $1.62
Total 200 536 107,200 $1.85 $198,270.50
Difference 9,350 $21,386.50

*First half November 2020 average feeder calf price in South Dakota for 300-400, 400-500, and 500-600 pound calves. (LMIC)

Source: SDSU Extension, Heather Gessner, SDSU Extension Livestock Business Management Field Specialist, Additional Authors Olivia Amundson