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Several factors influence beef cattle operation profitability. The three primary categories are input costs, cattle prices and reproduction (i.e., “making something to sell”). Of those three, cattle producers generally have more influence over reproduction than input costs and cattle prices, because reproductive rate can be controlled through management. Even if a cattle producer can purchase inputs at volume discounts and is extremely good at managing cattle price risk, it is still necessary to have something to sell, which comes back to reproduction. There are benchmarks for reproductive performance that influence profitability and economic sustainability. Pregnancy rate, calving rate and weaning rate are the first three reproduction benchmarks to focus on, with each rate setting the upper level of the next (i.e., if the pregnancy rate is 95 percent, then the calving rate cannot exceed 95 percent). These three values are indicative of the number of calves a producer can market given the number of cows exposed to a bull. Another important reproductive benchmark is the calving distribution of a herd (percent of calves born by day 30, 60 and 90 of a calving season), which influences the production benchmarks of weaning weight and pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed. The older a calf is, the heavier the calf will likely be at time of weaning and at time of sale. Shifting calving distribution improves revenue potential after reaching the upper limits of the other reproductive factors, but it is also influential prior to achieving those benchmarks. The objective of this publication is to compare how the net return to a beef cow-calf operation is impacted by changes in reproductive success. This publication illustrates how changes in reproductive benchmarks (i.e., weaning percentage and calving distribution) can influence profitability of a cow herd.


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