Deciding on the best calving season is a major decision for cow/calf producers and, due to late calving cows and raised replacements, the debate on having one versus two calving seasons in the same herd is seemingly never ending. Many fall calving seasons have arisen from elongated spring seasons. For larger herds, 80 cows or more, two calving seasons may offer benefits for producers in spreading cash flow and expenses throughout the year, as opposed to seasonal dynamics.
To take full advantage of economies of scale, a producer needs about 20 steer calves in the same season to realize the price advantage associated with increased lot size at market time. Therefore, having forty cows in each season as a minimum seems to make sense. Using two seasons rather than one can also reduce bull costs significantly. Properly developed and cared for, bulls can be used in both spring and fall, thereby reducing the bull battery by half. Another small advantage to having two calving seasons is the capability of taking fall-born heifers and holding them another few months to enter the spring calving herd, and visa versa. In this program, heifers begin calving at 2 ½ years of age, rather than 2 years. As a result, these heifers should rebreed more readily and have slightly less calving difficulties. Research has shown that these differences are very small; therefore the cost of another six months of feed must be minimized to make this a feasible proposition.
A good discussion of the merits of spring versus fall calving seasons in the Southern Plains can be found in OSU Extension Fact Sheet F-3258: Choosing Calving and Weaning Seasons. This fact sheet is available at your local OSU Extension Office.