Longevity is the key to productivity in a cowherd

In any type of business, operating with efficiency is important.

Efficiency leads to better time management, less resources used in the production of a quality product and a better bottom line. Efficiency is important in the agriculture industry and one way producers can make improvements on their farm in this area is to identify efficient cows and proliferate their genetics.

Just how can producers determine cow efficiency? It helps to look at her performance from more than one angle.

“Efficiency comes in a variety of forms,” University of Missouri Livestock Field Specialist Andy McCorkill explained. “With the cowherd, we have reproductive efficiency, nutritional efficiency and longevity as key factors affecting the overall profitability of a particular cow as well as the operation as a whole. From a reproductive standpoint, we breed cows to calve on a roughly 365-day calving interval, which means they calve basically the same day every year. Nutritional efficiency requires that the cow convert relatively low-quality feedstuffs into a healthy, weaned calf without much added input.

“Longevity ties it all together when a cow stays productive into her golden years. On average, it will take three to five calves worth of income for a cow to recoup her development costs up to the birth of her first calf. That means that she could well be 7 years old before a cow breaks even for you, so the longer she stays productive, the more likely she is to turn management a profit.”

Producers also need to take the performance of the cow’s calf into consideration when evaluating her overall efficiency.

“Calf performance is an indication as well as a function of efficiency,” McCorkill explained.

A cow should ideally wean a calf that is 50 percent of her weight.

“As cows have increased in size, it has become harder to accomplish that goal. A 1,000-pound cow will more likely wean a 500-pound calf than a 1,400-pound cow will wean a 700-pound calf,” Tom Troxel professor and associate department head of animal science with the University of Arkansas Extension.

McCorkill recommends producers cull cows that produce underperforming calves.

“Every herd has half of the cows that are performing their job below average,” he said. “It’s our job as managers to find those animals and weed them out or improve their performance.

“Management, genetics and perhaps a little luck must all come together to make an efficient grazing operation.”

McCorkill advised producers use management strategies to help promote well-performing cows, such as proper grass management, record keeping and thoughtful culling to develop an efficient herd.

Klaire HowertonFarm Helpcow efficiency,cowherd,longevity,productivityLongevity is the key to productivity in a cowherd In any type of business, operating with efficiency is important. Efficiency leads to better time management, less resources used in the production of a quality product and a better bottom line. Efficiency is important in the agriculture industry and one way...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma