Cattle selection is the beginning to any successful cattle producer. As producers, we sometimes believe that we can overcome poor cattle selection through other management practices. With numbers of quality cattle being available for you to select being down, it is still very important for you to select the right cow and not just any cow.
I talk to cattle producers on a daily basis and find it interesting that producers’ sole criteria for selection is based upon the cost of that animal. While cost is very important, a producer should only consider cost after other criteria have been met. At this point, the producer can then make the final decision as to the cost of purchasing that animal.
As mentioned in last month’s article, consistency within your herd should be your first area of consideration. Before purchasing cattle, evaluate your current situation. "Know what you got, before deciding what you need."
Go through your herd and make notes based upon the following: What color is the majority of my cows, what body type, (long, short, tall, thin muscled, heavy muscle) what is their current breeding status, what is the predominant breed in the herd (Angus, Charlois, Hereford, other), what size is the majority of your herd. These factors all play an important role before you should consider adding cattle to your herd. The reason for this evaluation is for you to have a consistent group of cows that have the same nutritional needs, breeding status, and the ability to produce similar calves that can be grouped for maximum dollars at your market place.
After evaluating your current herd, I would hope that you have at least 90% of your herd to be consistent on the criteria that we discussed. If your herd is less than 90% consistent, then I would look at my most consistent group and start at that point.
Now that you have evaluated your herd, let’s look at why we should consider each of those areas. The two main reasons that we want a similar herd are in meeting nutritional needs and bull selection.
Always keep in mind the goal of producing a similar calf for the least amount of money. Cattle that are similar in body type, size and breeding status will have similar nutritional requirements. It is impossible to develop a feeding program for a set of cows that range in size, weight and breeding status. It is difficult to feed in a pasture that has bred cows, cows with baby calves, and cows with 400 weight calves without over feeding or under feeding one of the groups. Feeding for the average will not work because you will be over feeding one group while under feeding the other group, costing you money and performance. It is also impossible to properly feed a set of cows that weigh from 700 to 1400 pounds. Nutrition is the most expensive part of raising cattle and you want to manage this area to provide you with the best value for dollar spent. Similar cows with similar nutritional demands will allow you to develop a feeding program that will cost you less money and will provide greater nutrition to your herd.
The other area of consideration is bull selection. When it comes time for you to select a bull, it is much easier to select a bull for a uniform herd. The goal of a cow calf producer is to produce a uniform product at market time. A bull that matches the cow herd will assist you in this goal. It does not matter if your cows are big, small, short, or tall; if they match, then you can select a bull that should produce a calf that will demand a premium at the market place. A producer who can sell a group of matched calves will get top dollar for that set, no matter what your market preference.
Hopefully this information has provided you a starting point to develop a consistent cattle herd. I realize that when cattle are bringing as much money as they are today, it makes it more difficult to cull and select like cattle. There will come a day, when cattle will be cheaper and it will be at that time that paying close to cattle selection today will pay tomorrow.
Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.