Wednesday, February 23, 2022

How long should a momma cow last in a herd?


We could debate this for hours, and never reach a consensus.     In nature, a cow can live 25 years.     In the theoretical world of geneticists (sitting at a desk with a computer in their face, and no cows in sight) the perceived “genetic trends” skew most choices made and recommendations given.     The mainstream AI industry of dairy-focused studs with companion beef breeding programs are key promoters of emphasizing EPD’s and overlooking any observation of cattle behavior.    They are selling semen on traits with half (or less) the measured heritability of natural fertility, disposition, udder conformation, foot structure, and many other key cow characteristics.     They promote “indexed” performance gains over consideration of incremental cost of producing those gains.     Thus the use of creep feeding to “enhance” pre-weaning rates of gain, rather than pasture fertilization and cattle managed on the land in symbiosis with the soil biology, that could feed them in a more ecologically sound, less machine-intensive way, thus more economical way.

Genetic selection.

Do you know how many natural calvings the dams of all (or any) of your herd sires have had?   Do you know how many services each required for conception?     Lots of embryo donors that result from multiple generations of ET propogation produce progeny that require the same to produce offspring.      Limit their genes to your terminal cross performance and show cattle.

The economics of cow ownership.

For many years, the famous Wye Plantation angus herd (copied by the folks with the “hairpin curve” genetics in Nebraska) would offer seven year old cows at their public auctions.    What was magical about seven years old?     Their calculation of their farm overhead said that a cow whose only income is one calf a year has to calve five times to recover the cost of being raised.

Would you buy a seven year old cow?      Backing this up was the average momma cow at Wye Plantation lived fifteen years.      That means for twelve calvings she bred on time to calve in the desired month with a live calf, and bred back afterwards.      Cows producing stillborn calves and cows that did not breed on time were culled.     Thus when they offered a selection of pregnant seven year old cows, they expected they had seven more calvings in them for the buyer.    All the “culls” had already left at a younger age, not give second (and third) chances to screw up…

Even if you consider your beef cow-calf operation a “hobby” it still pays to operate as if these cows were the sole source of income for your farm.     Keep your decisions practical.


Approaching the end of the breeding season

For those who only utilize spring calving, this is getting close to the end of heat detection and insemination.     If you utilize clean up bulls, they need to be ready to go to work soon (but hopefully will not find much work to do… )

If your calves are not yet tagged or vaccinated, that will be your next step in herd management.    Calf identification is primary to effective evaluation of results for your breeding decisions, as you sort between replacement and feeder qualities.

For those will dual (spring + fall) calving, we remain ready to assist you with your new semen requirements for early winter breeding.     Our stocking of AI supplies and other aids to fertility is a “year long” investment here.


Mich Livestock Service, Inc    “For the Best in Bulls”    “For the Best in Forage Seeds”  

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