Cow Size Question

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SRBeef

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We have had discussions about cow size here before. In my situation I am acres-limited. I am looking to produce the most pounds of marketable beef per acre that I can in an all-Hereford birth-to-plate operation.

My vet and I worked the herd a few weeks ago. This included weighing all of the cows, spring calves, yearling heifers and steers and bull. I had a breeding soundness exam done this past weekend and again weighed the steers and bull group.

In looking at the weight numbers from May 15th, I am taking those as base numbers for cow weights. Calves were all born between 4/12 and 5/3, so the cows should be back at their baselines weights and had a couple weeks of good grass.

Using Cattlemax which has a number of very good weight reports and lots of ways to display them, I listed my cows from heaviest to lightest. I also listed my yearling steers and heifers from heaviest to lightest and also by rate of gain over the two weeks between May 15 and May 30th weighings. My heaviest cow was at 1530 lb, the lightest at 1115 lb.

The thing that jumps out of the data is that the heaviest, good looking, good phenotype cows (one of them is in my avatar) do NOT have the heaviest, fastest gaining yearlings. My heaviest and fastest gaining steer actually comes from of one of my lighter cows. The three heaviest cows had steers and heifers in the middle of the actual weight range and low end of the gain per day.

One confounding factor is that these yearlings were not out of my current bull nor even out of the same bull. A couple cows were purchased bred, a couple yearlings are out of a rent a bull my neighbor and I used in 2007.

HOWEVER, if the information in Aussie Girl's post about the male inheriting more of the COW's genes rather than the bull's genes is correct, maybe the difference in the steers' growth is more a function of the cow than the bull?

Finally my question: As I am interested in producing the most beef per acre, it seems to me that in fact I should sell what on first glance would seem to be my best looking, deep chested, long, good milking cows. Theoretically these three heaviest cows could be replaced by 4 smaller 1200 lb cows and produce 4 calves rather than 3 and those 4 might even each be heavier than any of the heavier cows' calves at yearling age.

Having 4 calves in place of 3 is a 33% increase in beef production with theoretically no increase in grass consumption (to weaning at least) since the total cow weight of the 4 lighter cows would equal the total weight of the 3 heavier culled cows.

The problem is I am ending up culling my best "LOOKING" cows! The thing I am struggling with is what good is a large, good phenotype cow? It's the calf she produces which is her annual output. And that output does not, by my numbers so far, seem to have much correlation to her own size.

My smaller, 1115 - 1250 lb cows are not as impressive to look at as the bigger ones but seem in the end to produce calves that are actually better than the big, flashy cows' calves.

So do I cull my "best looking" cows???? What is wrong with my new-to-cattle, engineers' logic here???? Here is a picture of #77 which is my heaviest cow but ended up with a really middle of the pack yearling steer. (website would not let me upload photo for some reason - this is the one in my avatar)

I appreciate any comments suggestions, different ways of looking at this side of the "cow size" question. Jim
 

HerefordSire

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Which cows are the most efficient in terms of residual feed intake?

I think your logic is generally correct for what you are trying to accomplish. The 3008 genetics in your bull are likely to surprise you after weaning to yearling age if I am not mistaken and could be the oppositve your current rankings show.
 

bigbull338

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ok its a proven fact that 1100 to 1250lb cows are more productive than the 1350lb cows an better.so you could cull your 4 heavyweights.an put 5 1200lb cows in their place.how much does the heavy weight cows calves weigh at weaning.
 
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SRBeef

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HerefordSire":ni8wh4t9 said:
Which cows are the most efficient in terms of residual feed intake?

I think your logic is generally correct for what you are trying to accomplish. The 3008 genetics in your bull are likely to surprise you after weaning to yearling age if I am not mistaken and could be the oppositve your current rankings show.

HS,

I don't know if I was clear on this above but none of the yearlings I am using to evaluate the cows are sired by T-21. It was a mix of other bulls.

What I am trying to do is to cull the herd down so I can keep as many of T-21's heifers as possible. Maybe all of them.

I'm not sure I understand your comment. But you feel the 3008 genetics in T-21's pedigree may produce different results from these heavy cows? T-21 certainly has outstanding weaning and yearling weight EPD's. But weighing this spring's calves even at 4-6 weeks old the lighter cows still seem to have an edge in weights but it is hard to tell for sure because of the age difference, even with adjusted calf weights.

What about the 4 calves in place of 3 idea? With T-21's genetics, even these lighter cows should wean some pretty nice heavy calves. I'd still have four of his calves in place of three if I replace the three heaviest cows with four 1200 pounders??? Same grass/hay consumption for four lighter cows as three heavier cows? Jim

on edit: it seems from my data that a yearling steer's weight is not necessarily proportional to his dam's weight and grass/hay consumption. If the male/steer gets most of his genetics from the cow, even a good bull is not going to change that result very much and I should cull these big beautiful cows?
 

HerefordSire

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SRBeef":25tutxvi said:
HerefordSire":25tutxvi said:
Which cows are the most efficient in terms of residual feed intake?

I think your logic is generally correct for what you are trying to accomplish. The 3008 genetics in your bull are likely to surprise you after weaning to yearling age if I am not mistaken and could be the oppositve your current rankings show.

HS,

I don't know if I was clear on this above but none of the yearlings I am using to evaluate the cows are sired by T-21. It was a mix of other bulls.

What I am trying to do is to cull the herd down so I can keep as many of T-21's heifers as possible. Maybe all of them.

I'm not sure I understand your comment. But you feel the 3008 genetics in T-21's pedigree may produce different results from these heavy cows? T-21 certainly has outstanding weaning and yearling weight EPD's. But weighing this spring's calves even at 4-6 weeks old the lighter cows still seem to have an edge in weights but it is hard to tell for sure because of the age difference, even with adjusted calf weights.

What about the 4 calves in place of 3 idea? With T-21's genetics, even these lighter cows should wean some pretty nice heavy calves. I'd still have four of his calves in place of three if I replace the three heaviest cows with four 1200 pounders??? Same grass/hay consumption for four lighter cows as three heavier cows? Jim


My mistake. I misread what you wrote.

I don't think 3008 genetics will combine any better with your heavier cows. Scientifically speaking, before I got rid of your best looking cows, I would make sure they are actually less efficient than the lighter worse looking cows. My understanding is these types of RFI tests are usually used for bulls only. Why not test your cows as long as it doesn't cost much? It is possible your heavier cows can be more efficient than your lighter cows even if they throw calves that wean at the same weight because of the heavier cows having a lower metabolism rate or better conversion ratio, etc. than your lighter cows.
 

HerefordSire

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on edit: it seems from my data that a yearling steer's weight is not necessarily proportional to his dam's weight and grass/hay consumption. If the male/steer gets most of his genetics from the cow, even a good bull is not going to change that result very much and I should cull these big beautiful cows?

I don't believe or disbelieve this. I would want to see genetic probabilities before allowing this as evidence as part of your decision.
 

J+ Cattle

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SRBeef, I think that you are not getting the best evaluation of your cows performance because your calves are from different bulls. Before you make any rash decisions and cull some of your cows give them a chance to prove themselves on a level playing field. If all of your calves that you are comparing are from the same bull then the cows can be given a ranking in their performance. As for culling your "best looking" cows, I recall you stated your goal was to produce the most beef, not take them to the county fair to be judged. Culling should be based on performance, which cows are producing the best offspring? The ones that are growing the best under your management conditions and reach a saleable weight in a reasonable amount of time with the least amount of inputs. Since you have a small operation it should be possible to rank all of your cows in terms of performance, track the amount of profit returned by each cow/calf pair based on the amount of time on the farm, inputs, weight, reproduction, etc. Then cull from the bottom of the ranking list and keep heifers from the best producers at the top of the list.

J+
 
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SRBeef

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J+ Cattle":13mtfjn3 said:
SRBeef, I think that you are not getting the best evaluation of your cows performance because your calves are from different bulls. Before you make any rash decisions and cull some of your cows give them a chance to prove themselves on a level playing field. If all of your calves that you are comparing are from the same bull then the cows can be given a ranking in their performance. As for culling your "best looking" cows, I recall you stated your goal was to produce the most beef, not take them to the county fair to be judged. Culling should be based on performance, which cows are producing the best offspring? The ones that are growing the best under your management conditions and reach a saleable weight in a reasonable amount of time with the least amount of inputs. Since you have a small operation it should be possible to rank all of your cows in terms of performance, track the amount of profit returned by each cow/calf pair based on the amount of time on the farm, inputs, weight, reproduction, etc. Then cull from the bottom of the ranking list and keep heifers from the best producers at the top of the list.

J+

I take it then that you are not a believer in the male-offspring-gets-most-of-his-genetics-from-the-dam because of the less than complete y chromosome proposition?

You have a good idea - wait until weaning in October then compare the calves when they are all from one bull. This makes a lot of sense before culling my "best" cows! I would like to do the RFI tests but just don't think I can devote the time to do that. They are also all nursing calves right now...

I want to make the decision before winter and could sell whatever cows I cull as bred.

If I still assume that my cows' feed needs are directly proportional to their weight (flawed but probably close) the 25% bigger (1500lb/1200lb) cows need to wean a calf 25% bigger than the small cows calves to remain in the herd??? Frankly I don't think it will happen. If my small cows wean a calf with a 205 day weaning weight of about 600 lb are the big cows going to wean a 750 lb calf? If there is a difference in calf weights I don't think it will be near that large.

Thinking as I go here, it would take a huge difference in RFI (big cows more efficient) and a huge difference in calf 205 day ww (big cows' calves much larger than small cows calves) to make up for the increased year around grass/hay consumption of the 1500 lb cow over the 1200 lb cow.

The other problem I am facing is after this summer's breeding season (bull in date in a couple weeks) do I sell T-21? If I retain his spring heifer calves I have he would be breeding his daughters next summer....

Knersie suggested keeping one of his sons. I have a beautiful T21 bull calf from one of my 1200 lb prototype cows that I left intact when cutting the others and was considering using him next summer (2010).

I'm open to suggestions. Keeping the good looking but big cows until fall and reevaluating then with calves from the same bull seems reasonable. However, thinking this through I don't know if it is possible for the numbers to turn in their favor....

Since the only time most of my cattle are "sold" it is frozen in boxes, my main profit criteria right now is weaning and yearling weights. As I buy all of my winter hay, keeping a large cow over the winter in WI can cost a lot. Cow grass and winter hay feed consumption per pound of approx 1100 pound yearling going to the processor is very important to my profitability. Unfortunately it takes almost 2 years to geneerate this data!

Thanks for the comments. Jim
 

Cowdirt

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Srbeef, let's look at it from another angle. Consider your customer's perception and your local reputation. This may be an issue, though not the overiding one, if your customer comes to your place and picks his product. A pretty herd of cows may influence his decision a little. I don't think pretty and efficient are mutually exclusive events. You appear to be thinking it through thoroughly.
 
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SRBeef

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Cowdirt":7q8uxuy2 said:
Srbeef, let's look at it from another angle. Consider your customer's perception and your local reputation. This may be an issue, though not the overiding one, if your customer comes to your place and picks his product. A pretty herd of cows may influence his decision a little. I don't think pretty and efficient are mutually exclusive events. You appear to be thinking it through thoroughly.

Cowdirt, That is an interesting angle. I don't have customers coming to my place however. I deliver frozen boxes to them in a large insulated wood box I built which slides into a utility trailer.

I also don't have the grass to keep them around as show pieces. If I was a breeder, or selling beef on the hoof that could certainly be a factor however. These animals are visually impressive.

It seems like one of the bigger cows, though not the boss cow, is also always pushing the others around though, except that she can do it because of her size.

As far as my local reputation, it's too late for that. My neighbors all know I'm nuts!

Jim
 

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I take it then that you are not a believer in the male-offspring-gets-most-of-his-genetics-from-the-dam because of the less than complete y chromosome proposition?

That is correct. I do not believe that is the case. Although the story sounded correct and reasonable, I find it hard to believe because.......another story will write later.

You have a good idea - wait until weaning in October then compare the calves when they are all from one bull. This makes a lot of sense before culling my "best" cows! I would like to do the RFI tests but just don't think I can devote the time to do that. They are also all nursing calves right now...

I believe part of this comment was related to the other poster. RFI...I had some cows flushed and their calves went with them. It is possible if you want it bad enough. It could free your time.

I want to make the decision before winter and could sell whatever cows I cull as bred.

The breds should be very marketable with T21 in your back pocket.

If I still assume that my cows' feed needs are directly proportional to their weight (flawed but probably close) the 25% bigger (1500lb/1200lb) cows need to wean a calf 25% bigger than the small cows calves to remain in the herd??? Frankly I don't think it will happen. If my small cows wean a calf with a 205 day weaning weight of about 600 lb are the big cows going to wean a 750 lb calf? If there is a difference in calf weights I don't think it will be near that large.

If your lighest calf weans the highest percentage weaning weight calf, then it is certainly possible the lighest cow also consumes the most money. Intake versus output should be measured before knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt which cows are the most efficient. If you want to play blackjack, I will play with you.

Thinking as I go here, it would take a huge difference in RFI (big cows more efficient) and a huge difference in calf 205 day ww (big cows' calves much larger than small cows calves) to make up for the increased year around grass/hay consumption of the 1500 lb cow over the 1200 lb cow.

The odds are against you, but what if you had one and culled her? Then you miss out on five to ten future calves because you played blackjack?

The other problem I am facing is after this summer's breeding season (bull in date in a couple weeks) do I sell T-21? If I retain his spring heifer calves I have he would be breeding his daughters next summer....

I would say linebreed, but your money comes from the heterosis side. He should be very easy to sell and you should get 50% more than you paid.

Knersie suggested keeping one of his sons. I have a beautiful T21 bull calf from one of my 1200 lb prototype cows that I left intact when cutting the others and was considering using him next summer (2010).

I was under the impression your cows were not full blood, but almost fullblood, and therefore any bull out of T21 would likewise not be full blood. Therefore, you could be sacrificing heterosis in the future by using him.

I'm open to suggestions. Keeping the good looking but big cows until fall and reevaluating then with calves from the same bull seems reasonable. However, thinking this through I don't know if it is possible for the numbers to turn in their favor....

What about buying an additional 2-3 acres for each cow you plan on culling so you could defer the culling until you were positive about efficiency?

Thanks for the comments. Jim

You are welcome Jim. I hope I helped you. The book thinks just like you are thinking...but I am trying to encourage you to see the limits.
 

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If your not raising seedstock,I don't see the bennifit in not crossbreding if your goal is to produce the most beef.I don't think many big fat cows ever bring in the biggest calf,her mother did and theres a good chance her daughters will.It seems to like to skip generations sometimes,but you can screw up alot of heifers if you feed them to hard.
 

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My most horrid looking cows often times wean the heaviest calfs. The problem is those cows breeding back on schedule. The best looking cows don't usually milk as well. Hence the lighter calfs. But, they normally bred back on time.
 
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SRBeef

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EAT BEEF":5ykuarvi said:
If your not raising seedstock,I don't see the bennifit in not crossbreding if your goal is to produce the most beef.I don't think many big fat cows ever bring in the biggest calf,her mother did and theres a good chance her daughters will.It seems to like to skip generations sometimes,but you can screw up alot of heifers if you feed them to hard.

EB, I currently have some BWF from some of my better cows. I just don't like the attitude of many of the BWF yearlings. They are unpredictable. In my rotational grazing system I just don't want to mess with them. Not trying to start a breed war. I'll give up a few pounds to keep this fun and safe. I am thinking I can breed straight Herefords that will be close in pounds of beef. I've got a couple of T21's straight Hereford calves with a noticeably better butt on them than others. These are the ones I want to focus on and hopefully keep the gentle nature of the Herefords.

A different vet (my regular vet doesn't do BSE's) and I did a breeding soundness exam on my bull last week. I did not have the headgate adjusted right for my bull's head size and needed to let him through and around again through the corral, tub, chute and into my Formost headgate after I had it adjusted correctly. I was pleasantly surprised that he went around again for me with minimal hassle. Probably laughing to himself at this rookie handler! But that is the type of cattle I want.

Maybe some crossbreds can be gentled but as far as I am concerned the straight Herefords are much more laid back, for the most part. Any that are trouble makers are going to the processor at the first opportunity regardless of any other factors.

I appreciate your comment about feeding heifers too hard. I was concerned about that while grazing corn stalks. However mine were all in there together. They came out of the corn in late January and are all treated the same. I think some are just naturally much bigger than others since my base herd came together from several different sources.

Tatertot, I am finding the same thing you are as far as average looking cows having good heavy calves. I have not yet seen any problem with breed back.

Jim
 

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Just my opinion but I wouldn't base any culling decisions on projected numbers with the calve just 4-6 weeks old. I'd prefer to wait and see what the calves do at weaning or better yet after they have been weaned for a few weeks. From there, I'd cull the lowest gainers. If one of the lowest gainers belonged to one of my best looking cows I might consider giving her another try but she would have a mark by her number. JMO
 

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Not to change the subject, but I have always wondered how the early maturing calf, 50 to 60% of moms weight, fits into the picture as to forage consumption. A 1200 lb. cow is more efficient than a 1600 lb.(assumption). But the assumption that a 400lb WW calf eats the same as a 600 lb. calf does not work for me. The 600 lb. calf eats more and wants more milk. If the cow produces more milk she eats more. If she does not produce that quantity then the calf may be eating more forage, depending on the efficiency of the calf and the efficiency of the cow.
So which is the more important NFI or size?
This brings up yet another question. Is the feed lot better off buying the slower maturing calf that possibly goes into it's growth spurt after weaning giving them better feed efficiency in the lot?
 

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novatech":9fhd6vve said:
Not to change the subject, but I have always wondered how the early maturing calf, 50 to 60% of moms weight, fits into the picture as to forage consumption. A 1200 lb. cow is more efficient than a 1600 lb.(assumption). But the assumption that a 400lb WW calf eats the same as a 600 lb. calf does not work for me. The 600 lb. calf eats more and wants more milk. If the cow produces more milk she eats more. If she does not produce that quantity then the calf may be eating more forage, depending on the efficiency of the calf and the efficiency of the cow.
So which is the more important NFI or size?
This brings up yet another question. Is the feed lot better off buying the slower maturing calf that possibly goes into it's growth spurt after weaning giving them better feed efficiency in the lot?

The higher milking cow also requires more feed even when she is dry.
 
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SRBeef

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These are interesting points for discussion. One of my main concerns however is after fall weaning.

I am assuming the 1500 lb cow is going to eat MUCH more hay over the winter than the 1200 lb cow. Whether it is 25% more or not is unimportant. Same thing in my grazing of corn stalks. Since she is dry and basically being carried over the winter I don't think the calf weight issue enters into this time period.

I purchase all of my winter hay. If I can winter four 1200 lb cows on the same hay and cornstalks as three 1500 lb cows that means come April I will have four calves from the 1200 pounders for the same hay as three calves from the 1500 pounders. It is hard to see how RFI, calf weight or development etc could overcome this 33% advantage to the 1200 lb cows.

I keeping coming back to the conclusion that it makes the most economic sense to sell all of my cows over say 1300 lb no matter how good their phenotype, etc. starting with the 1500 pounders.

Jim
 

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Which meat tastes better (or has the highest quality)?

(1) the meat from the fastest growing calf-yearling?

(2) the meat from the slowest growing calf-yearling?
 
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