Profitable suckled calf production, like any other business, depends on the balance between costs and output (Fig 1). The major costs incurred in suckled calf production are feed costs to the cow. Output is simply the weight of weaned calf sold per cow put to the bull, coupled with planned marketing of good quality, cull cows. To maintain this balance at an optimum level requires correct herd management. This can only be achieved with all cows in the herd being at a similar stage of production--a compact two-month calving period. In the long term, a compact two month calving period can only be maintained with correct management of bulling and first-calved heifers. Day-to-day management decisions must be based on the current condition of the cows in relation to the target condition scores set for the system. Understanding this model allows a simple management system to be implemented and achieve the high levels of fertility and suckled calf output required for a profitable enterprise in today's economic climate.
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