Size matters when buying replacements

April 5, 2009 07:00 PM

When buying replacement heifers or cows, producers need to consider the relationship of their size preferences with cow performance and efficiency, says David Hoffman, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist.

"Attend any cow or heifer sale and you will see that larger, heavier cows and heifers command the highest prices," he says. "Cattle producers like to look at heavy cows in their front pastures, but do those big cows and heifers actually make more money?"

Maybe not. Hoffman cites a study from North Dakota State University that catalogued cows according to their average weight and respective performance. The heavier cows actually made fewer total dollars in terms of calf sales, Hoffman says.

Not only did the percentage of cow weight weaned decrease as cow weight increased, the actual weaning weight of the calves decreased, he says. For example, cows weighing 1,200 lb. or less weaned 50% of their fall weight with 617-lb. calves, while cows that weighed more than 1,600 lb. weaned 34% of their fall weight with 572-lb. calves.

"Another economic consideration is the number of cows to have in your herd," Hoffman says. "If a farm is capable of supporting 100 head of 1,400-lb. cows, the same farm should have the capability of supporting 120 head of 1,200-lb. cows. The primary difference is the smaller cows would eat less forage. Most producers would like to sell an additional 16 to 20 calves every year."

For questions or comments, e-mail Kim Watson, editor Beef Today.
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