Ag Notes: Increase consistency in beef cattle

February 24, 2004|JERRY LITTLE

Uniformity in cattle production gives you higher prices at the sale barn and a higher percentage of correctly finished cattle in the feedlot. Lack of beef consistency is a major problem, according to a National Cattlemen's Beef Association beef quality audit.

If you are a commercial cow/calf operator, you're looking for management practices to add overall consistency to your calf crop.

Let's take a look at some practices you can use to boost consistency, or measurable traits such as calf weaning weights.

Management practices are most effective in reducing calf variation.

The most effective tool to increase calf weaning weight uniformity is to have a limited breeding season. For example, if calves approaching weaning gained two pounds a day, it would take a difference of just 50 days in their birth dates to result in calves with 100 pounds difference in weaning weight.

To have a large number of calves born early, it's important to have cows and heifers in good health and condition going into the breeding season.


Using estrous-synchronization programs may help tighten the breeding and calving season even more. In addition to uniformity in the calf crop, producing more calves earlier in the calving season gives you more pounds to sell.

When choosing sires, don't try to select individual bulls to reduce variation.

This practice has little chance of success because many genes are involved to produce most traits of economic importance.

Using bulls that are related is one possible way to reduce variation in commercial herds where multiple sires are used. The closer the bulls' relationship, the less variation you expect to see in the calf crop. By mating the cow herd to bulls that are relatives, the calf crop will have a portion of its genetic makeup in common.

On the downside, buying related bulls that cost more than non-related bulls of similar quality generally isn't cost effective.

It is important to correctly implement crossbreeding systems to increase consistency. Don't use breeds with large production differences in your crossbreeding system, because this is likely to increase cow-herd variability and ultimately lead to inconsistency in calves.

While there's no "quick fix" to achieve uniformity, you can produce a consistently acceptable beef product by recognizing differences among those breeds and breed types available and managing cattle based on their potential.

Good Samaritan?

A husband and wife were driving down a country lane on their way to visit some friends. They came to a muddy patch in the road and the car became bogged.

After a few minutes of trying to get the car out by themselves, they saw a young farmer coming down the lane, driving some oxen before him.

The farmer stopped when he saw the couple in trouble and offered to pull the car out of the mud for $50.

The husband accepted and minutes later the car was free. The farmer turned to the husband and said, "You know, you're the tenth car I've helped out of the mud today."

The husband looks around at the fields incredulously and asks the farmer, "When do you have time to plough your land? At night?"

"No," the young farmer replied seriously, "Night is when I put the water in the hole."

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