Cow Frame Size, interseeded clover year 2 and some pictures

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SRBeef

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My interest in reducing the average frame size of my cows continues. Last week I was with the herd and compared a couple cows.

One of the things that I noticed is that there is not a direct relationship between the size of the cow and the size/quality of the calf. I have some 1200 lb Hereford cows who raise faster growing, better phenotype, just plain bigger and better calves than some 1500 lb otherwise good looking cows.

Case in point is two particular cows who had calves from the same bull (my T21 bull) this spring.

As we discussed earlier, in general it is logical to assume that a 1200 lb cow will consume less grass, hay etc over the course of a year than a 1500 lb cow. whether or no that is a direct linear relationship is not important.

It does seem however, that with a herd of 1200 lb cows like the smaller one pictured, one could keep more animals and therefore raise more calves on the same grass than if you had all 1500 lb cows like the larger one pictured.

I find it interesting that the smaller 1200 lb cows seem to out produce the 1500 lb cows (more/better weaned calf output per pound of cow). Food for thought and I am looking for experienced feedback.

Here are some pictures from the other day to illustrate this point. This is a complex subject, especially for someone like me who does not know much about cattle. But it makes me more convinced a herd of 1200 lb cows like #66 would raise more beef per acre than a herd of 1500 lb cows like #77. (I could not get a good picture of 77 with her calf but nowhere near as large or good phenotype as the 66 calf)

First photo is 1500 lb cow #77
1Cow_Frame_Size-1500_lb_cow_77_062509_IMG_0791.JPG


2nd photo is 1200 lb cow #66 with her 10 week old T21 heifer calf
2Cow_Frame_Size-1200lb_cow_66_with_10_wk_heifer_calf_062509_IMG_0795.JPG


3rd photo is rear view of 1500 lb cow #77 on left and 1200 lb cow #66 on right
3Cow_Frame_Size-77_left_and_66_right_side_by_side_062509_IMG_0822_1.JPG


4th photo is my bull T21 in the field with both cows and sire of both of their calves.
4Cow_Frame_Size-the_bull_062509_IMG_0789l.JPG


I will also add a couple pictures taken the same day showing the grass pasture where I interseeded clover and a pasture mix last spring (08). It has been a cool, wet spring in the north and tough to get the corn and beans in the ground but good for the pastures. Even though it has turned very hot and humid the past two weeks or so, a grass pasture where I no till drilled clover and a pasture mix in is really producing well.

On 6/25 I opened up a section of the interseeded pasture in my rotational grazing. This is the second time on this pasture since May 1. the clover really came through well. After the first grazing I dragged the pasture and clipped it. The clipping really brought it back and took care of many of the weeds and thistle especially.

1Opening_up_new_paddock_of_interseeded_clover_062509_IMG_0740.JPG


2Opening_up_new_paddock_of_interseeded_clover_062509_IMG_0760.JPG


Notice the difference between the grass on the edge where I did not want to get the drill too close to the wire and in the lane on the left compared ot the interseeded area.
3Opening_up_new_paddock_of_interseeded_clover_062509_IMG_0762.JPG


4Opening_up_new_paddock_of_interseeded_clover_062509_IMG_0776.JPG
 

HerefordSire

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How much money are we talking about each year if you cull the two 1,500 pounders and buy or replace two 1,200 pounders?
 
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SRBeef

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HerefordSire":2d6tgmzf said:
How much money are we talking about each year if you cull the two 1,500 pounders and buy or replace two 1,200 pounders?

HS, I think I am out of the phase where I am going to cull cows like 77 who really is a good cow and good mama. Nor am I about to run out and buy some unknown cows just because they weigh 1200 lb.

I am leaning now more towards just not keeping heifers out of the bigger cows and focusing breeding on the 1200 lb cows. This way I am not culling otherwise good cows just because of size/grass consumption. But at the same time I will be building toward the 1200 lb end of the weight spectrum and from cows that have a track record with me.

The problem with this approach is what bull to use on T21's daughters? Any sort of AI program is just not feasible for me. I thought about buying a second bull and maybe a neighbor and I can work out a swap system...

Jim
 
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SRBeef

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talldog":359662r2 said:
I think your therory is correct, sorta like people. You sure have some mighty fine cattle ! :)

td, I am sort of thinking along the same lines of the cattle/people analogy when it comes to weight and consumption. Thank you for your kind words on my cattle. I have been fortunate to have had decent rain this year. Wish we could spread that around. May dry off in July though like it did last year.

I'm still searching for what sort of stocking rate I can really carry through the year. It is easy to get cocky with the numbers in May and June then be scrambling for feed in August....we'll see.

Jim
 

HerefordSire

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SRBeef":zwigtbds said:
HerefordSire":zwigtbds said:
How much money are we talking about each year if you cull the two 1,500 pounders and buy or replace two 1,200 pounders?

HS, I think I am out of the phase where I am going to cull cows like 77 who really is a good cow and good mama. Nor am I about to run out and buy some unknown cows just because they weigh 1200 lb.

I am leaning now more towards just not keeping heifers out of the bigger cows and focusing breeding on the 1200 lb cows. This way I am not culling otherwise good cows just because of size/grass consumption. But at the same time I will be building toward the 1200 lb end of the weight spectrum and from cows that have a track record with me.

The problem with this approach is what bull to use on T21's daughters? Any sort of AI program is just not feasible for me. I thought about buying a second bull and maybe a neighbor and I can work out a swap system...

Jim

Generally, that sounds like a better plan than you were considering. How many T21 daughters do you have from the heavies and the lights? AI costs are very reasonable especially since you are not registering them. The highest cost of AI could be the certs.
 

Frankie

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My question is what are you doing with your calves? If you're selling beef, you might do better by running more, smaller cows.

We've been raising registered Angus for a long time. Our experience is that commercial cattlemen like larger framed bulls. So our cows might be larger than you'd like. But the bigger yearling bulls usually sell best.

It's not a simple thing and only you can make the decision. Not all small cows are productive; not all big cows aren't.
 

gberry

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I like your idea of keeping heifers out of the cows that more closely approximate your ideal and selling heifers out of the others. I think it's easier to pick quality replacements out of your own herd.

Out of curiosity, what is the frame score/weight of the T21 bull? What size bull do you think you will need to keep those 1200 lb cows?
 

Willow Springs

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What size bull do you think you will need to keep those 1200 lb cows?

We have Red Angus cattle. We have started weighing and hip heighting cows every second year. Most of our cows are 5-6 frame and will weigh 1450-1550 lbs at 5-6 BCS for that frame. I want to get our size down to 1300-1400 so I am aiming for 4-5 frame bulls. As Frankie said, most bull buyers up here want bulls that show some growth so I don't want to go too much smaller at this point.

If a person wants 1200 lb cows with a decent BCS 5-6 I think you'll have to aim for 3 frame. There will be breed differences but to me that would be the general rule.
 

dun

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Willow Springs":1vm7zpot said:
What size bull do you think you will need to keep those 1200 lb cows?

We have Red Angus cattle. We have started weighing and hip heighting cows every second year. Most of our cows are 5-6 frame and will weigh 1450-1550 lbs at 5-6 BCS for that frame. I want to get our size down to 1300-1400 so I am aiming for 4-5 frame bulls. As Frankie said, most bull buyers up here want bulls that show some growth so I don't want to go too much smaller at this point.

If a person wants 1200 lb cows with a decent BCS 5-6 I think you'll have to aim for 3 frame. There will be breed differences but to me that would be the general rule.

You've pretty well summed up the problem. Going to smaller cattle just to shed some weight is a fools errand around here. Our buyers want large mediums or small large framed cattle. Hard to do with the FS 3-4 cows.
 

BRG

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By reducing frame, ussually you reduce muscle and bone as well. The cattle will be a bit more calving ease, which in turn will be flatter sided. You can reduce frame and keep all the above, but it is harder than one would think.

We must understand the market we sell into before you go and change your plan. If the commercial feeder calf buyers/feeders don't want smaller framed cattle to feed and that is your market, you better not go to small as they either won't buy from you or they will discount you heavily. Sure you may be able to run more cows on your ground if they are smaller, but how will that help you if you can't find a buyer!

I like a 5.5 to 6 frame cow, and our bull buyers like to buy bulls that are 5.5 to 7 frame bulls. By having cows that are this size, we can hit all the frame sizes needed. It used to be the bigger bulls sold better, but now the commercial cattlemen are extremely smart and go after more than just frame. it seems like they like the 6 frame bulls with gobs of body and muscle. We used to have ring buyers and now they pretty much all have their bulls picked out before the sale and only bid on those certain bulls.

The feedlots we deal with don't want small frame calves to feed, but then again, they don't want real large ones either. The real large one take to long to kill and will weigh 1500 lbs or so, while the small ones get to fat to early and have to small of a carcass, while not gaining as much as they want either plus they have to high of a yield grade.

We buy lots of replacement heifers on order from our bull customers for other buyers around the country and it seems they all want good looking cattle that are deep bodied and are about 5.5 to 6 frame heifers. They will pay a huge premium on this type of heifer if she is good over the smaller ones.


Think of it this way - A few years ago their was a meat processing plant that began and was killing quite a few head a day and was very efficient in doing so, but they went broke because they didn't have anywhere to go with the meat. I believe we need to know our market and sell into it instead of trying to create a new market, as we all don't have the time or money to do so.
 

BARNSCOOP

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BRG,
Thanks for detailing your post. It helps people like me understand. Would you give me examples of breed types that traditional have small frames and those with large frames? I am trying to train my eye for this and am not very good at it. I also thought that large frames meant more bone more groceries and less meat? Please correct me, I need the education.
 

BRG

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BARNSCOOP":2zpieyke said:
BRG,
Thanks for detailing your post. It helps people like me understand. Would you give me examples of breed types that traditional have small frames and those with large frames? I am trying to train my eye for this and am not very good at it. I also thought that large frames meant more bone more groceries and less meat? Please correct me, I need the education.

Typically the traditional English based breeds are a smaller type animal and the continentals are larger, but with todays type cattle, the continentals have come down in size and the English have gone up. You can find smaller framed good cattle in most breeds, especially Angus (red or black) and Hereford. To me as long as the cow is deep bodied and easy keeping, and carry good muscle, it shouldn't matter what they weigh.

The cows in the photos are both around a 6 frame. To me this is what a beef cow should look like. They are not perfect by no means, but yet they are good producers and are always in great shape.




I feel cows and bulls should carry good bone,(not excess, but not chicken legged either) as this ussually indicates some performance and muscle. (Not always). Large frame does not mean less meat. Typically the larger framed the animal is, the heavier the carcass or MORE MEAT. But sometimes it can be to much meat as they can get discounted for heavies in the hanging weight. This is why you need to have a happy medium on what you want to raise and what sells.
 

Jeanne - Simme Valley

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Excellent post BRG.
And SRBeef - remember - what goes in comes out - meaning in order for a cow to produce that growthy calf, she must be MILKING. It takes INTAKE to produce milk. So, without measuring feed intake, your 1200# cow "could" be eating as much if not more than your 1500# cow, if the 1500# cow is a poor milker. So, you may have two extremes in producers which makes it very difficult to compare them.
If the 1200# cow produced milk poorly & the 1500# cow was a heavy milker, you would have different opinions of what size cow you liked!
As mentioned, go with your saleable market. If you are selling strickly freezer beef, small cows might be exactly what you want.
I always tell people to remember, each cow, no matter what her size, takes your TIME - time to observe for calving, time to run thru the chute, just anything. The more number of cows, the more time it takes, so you might as well have the BEST cows you can have.
Your herd is looking good by the way!
 
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SRBeef

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I've been away from computers for a few days. Been able to read but not reply.

My bull T21 seems to have leveled out at right at 2000-2100 lb mature weight. I believe (but can not check right now) that his dam weight is in the 1300 lb range. I think that dam weight may come to be an important bull statistic.

As far as frame size or hip height I have not been taking actual measurements but will in the future.

I do know however that cow 66 (the compact 1200 lb one) has had steers that produce more finished saleable beef than the larger cows.

One of the good comments above is that we all need to produce what the buyer wants, not what we think he should want.

In my case however selling beef to the enduser, all the buyer cares about is quality, delivery and price. They don't care a bit about cow size. I am looking for the most profitable cow size to produce the three things my buyer is looking for.

For example, there is a spring market for good grilling beef for the summer. Sort of like selling vine ripe tomatoes in the winter...can bring a good price. I may harvest some barely yearling steers coming off corn stalks in Feb or March rather than at traditional harvest weights. This may take a different set of genetics than the traditional finishing systems...

Thanks for the comments, suggestions and kind words. Jim
 

Willow Springs

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I disagee somewhat with some of the comments made in the last few posts. Keeping your market in mind, etc is very true, however trying to match your cowherd to what the feeding industry wants is wrong in my opinion. That is why we the continental cattle were brought over, as a terminal cross in to increase feedlot performance (ie: growth, muscle, cutability, etc.). Why not use these other breeds to make a more ideal feedlot animal while gaining the nearly free advantage of hi-brid vigour instead of putting all the pressure on your cows to be big enough to produce what the feedlot wants? Almost all the breeds come in black nowadays if that is of concern to anyone.

It takes INTAKE to produce milk. So, without measuring feed intake, your 1200# cow "could" be eating as much if not more than your 1500# cow, if the 1500# cow is a poor milker. So, you may have two extremes in producers which makes it very difficult to compare them.
If the 1200# cow produced milk poorly & the 1500# cow was a heavy milker, you would have different opinions of what size cow you liked!

By this reasoning then we could have 2000 lb cows. You are pointing out differences that could be possible within individuals not what would happen on a broader spectrum. If you went to the mart and bought 100 cows of each weight category their feed efficiency, milking ability, etc would be pretty much even on average. The group of 1200 lb cows would wean more pounds of calf per pound of cow everytime. There may be individuals within each group that didn't fit this general rule but that is true of every population. The calves from the 1200 lb cows would also most likely be lighter, but then they are almost always worth more $'s per pound. I know that I sound like Kit Pharo (I have plagarized some of my thinking from him), but it is very common sense stuff if you actually keep an open mind and think about it. Yes if the calves looked stubby and like they wouldn't grow you may get docked a bit, but would it offset the fact that they were worth more per pound and cost less to produce than the calves from the 1500 lb cow? Besides that if you crossbred with a a little larger framed bull the calves would not even come close to a discount.

I always tell people to remember, each cow, no matter what her size, takes your TIME - time to observe for calving, time to run thru the chute, just anything. The more number of cows, the more time it takes, so you might as well have the BEST cows you can have.

This is only partially true. I can feed a larger amount of smaller cows in the same amount of time because each one eats less feed so my labour cost per cow is lower, all fixed costs (equipment, labour, barns, etc.) can be spread out over a larger number of cows so cost per cow is lower. Also checking/moving/handling cows is not incremental. It doesn't take double the time to check/move/handle 100 cows than it takes for 50. The more cows you have the lower the cost per cow on these activities as well. Any drugs that have dosage related to weight are also less for the smaller cows.

There are actually very few things that cost the same for small cows as big. Vaccines, tags, synchro drugs, preg checks, etc are fixed as costs per cow so they cost per pound of production for those very few things would actually be higher on the small cows.
 

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SRBeef,

I'm not fimiliar or educated enough on several opinions posted here so I wont comment but I can tell you this much. I sold calves in such a manner as you are looking into for Feb/March. I sold 10 to individuals last year and two, so far, with three more selling in the next couple of months this year. Out of all 12 calves sold the only negitive comment (which came up three times via surveys) was that some of the steaks were to small. Those came from calves I slaughtered as yearings and 15 month olds. We are now starting in September letting our crop grow into the are 18 months old at the least. I will say that all my cows are cross bred they were all sired by different bulls as I bought them individually as bred with a calf by their side. This year is my first crop with a bull I bought . I do understand your thoughts on the cow size issues as I have pondered this myself. It's hard not to feel like you can feed two smaller cows for what it cost to feed one large cow, and then get two calves instead of one. But again I am only reading to learn on this post.

BRG,
Thank you for taking the time to explain this to me.
 

dun

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Willow Springs":20pqk5fo said:
I disagee somewhat with some of the comments made in the last few posts. Keeping your market in mind, etc is very true, however trying to match your cowherd to what the feeding industry wants is wrong in my opinion. That is why we the continental cattle were brought over, as a terminal cross in to increase feedlot performance (ie: growth, muscle, cutability, etc.). Why not use these other breeds to make a more ideal feedlot animal while gaining the nearly free advantage of hi-brid vigour instead of putting all the pressure on your cows to be big enough to produce what the feedlot wants? Almost all the breeds come in black nowadays if that is of concern to anyone.

What ends up happening when you use a large termianl bulls on the small cows you don;t get that happy medium between the 2. You get a spread of all 3 types. The ones so large the feeders don;t want them and the small ones that they don;t want either. Using bulls and cows of the size that you want for selling purposes in no way prevents you form taking advantage of heterosis
 

BRG

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I agree with Dun. If you have a frame 6.5 to 7 terminal bull and use him on your 4 frame cows, one would think you would get a whole bunch of 5.5 frame calves to sell, but you won't. You will end up with small bunches of 4 frames small bunches of 5 frames, small bunches of 6 frames and a group of 7's as well. When you sell, they will then be sorted up into frame sizes and you will sell 4 groups of steers and 4 groups of heifers. Instead of just 1 large one and 1 smaller group. In our area, 1 large group of calves ALWAYS brings $3 to $5 per hundred weight more than the smaller groups. Then they ussually sort for color as well, depending on what type of cow you have and what type of terminal bull you use, you may have smaller groups of calves again due to color.

I do agree that you should not strictly breed for the feedlot, as that is a wreck waiting to happen. On the same note I don't think you should strictly breed for the pasture either. In our experience, you can have a cowherd that does both, as we do. Our income is to sell bulls, We sell coming 2 year olds that were developed 7 months in the lot with out any grain, and then 5 months in the pasture, so they have to be able to perform on roughage. We then sell about 50 yearlings that are developed in the lot with some grains. These bulls will gain well and efficiently and have the 6 frame I need to be able to sell them with good bone, length and muscle development. (If I was to have the small frame bulls I would have a whole bunch more finner boned, not as heavy muscled bulls as I do now) Now our summer calving cows winter graze without any protein supplement and they only get hay if their is to much snow or a blizzard. These cows are not small by no means, but they have the depth of body and easy fleshing ability to handle it. Our spring calvers do get hay over the winter and ussually left over grass hay, but that is it.

If I were to try to sell stricly 4 to 5 frame Red Angus bulls I would only get about 25% of my bulls sold as nearly all of my customers breed Red Angus to Red Angus (right or wrong, this is what they do) So I NEED to develop and sell bulls that will do both, work in the pasture and work in the lot.

To top it off, most of the pasture here is rented on a cow/calf unit instead of by the acre, no matter what size of cow you have, so you might as well have a cow that will raise a 600 to 650 lbs calf instead of a 500 to 550 lbs calf.

But to each his own, if it works for you, don't fix it, but if it isn't then you better :)
 

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