- Jan 19, 2004
- Reaction score
- Northeast Montana
Sizing Down the Herd
Bigger Not Always Better When It Comes to Bull
Mon Feb 28, 2011 09:21 AM CST Print Email
By Boyd Kidwell
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor
Tim Ohlde is a Kansas cattleman with a national reputation for selling cattle that can succeed in two very different worlds. They meet feedlot demands for gains, but also are capable of living in the real world, raising calves on limited nutrition.
Take a look at the cows at Ohlde Cattle Co. What you'll see are moderate-sized, deep-bodied animals with loads of capacity (guts) and the ability to flesh easily on forage.
"If you take a 1,500-pound cow and a 1,100-pound cow and compare the two, the larger cow eats one-third more feed but she won't produce a calf that weighs one-third more than the smaller cow's calf," says Ohlde, who ranches at Palmer.
With that in mind, he has worked for more than 20 years to breed cows that thrive on grass without feed supplements and produce calves that perform well in feedlots. The key points Ohlde selects for are low birthweight, high weaned value and what the Angus breed association calls Cow Energy Value. This value is a means of comparing sires for their ability to reduce cow energy requirements in future daughters.
With the pinch of high feed costs, cow energy measurements are a way to help commercial producers breed replacement females that don't eat up their profits.
Over years of selecting on this criteria, Ohlde has decreased birthweight by 2 pounds, increased yearling weight 15 pounds and reduced the average frame score of his cows. Key to this has been bull size.
"If you buy the largest bull at a sale, the steers out of him might finish in the feedlot at 1,500 pounds, but the replacement heifers out of the bull will keep growing until they reach 1,400 pounds. I want steers that grow like crazy to reach 1,200 pounds as yearlings and heifers that reach 1,100 pounds -- and then growth shuts off," says Ohlde.
As feed and fertilizer prices skyrocket, other producers are realizing bigger isn't better when it comes to cows.
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