Performance of smaller frame cattle.

How Big is Big Enough?

According to the USDA Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska, the average Angus, Red Angus and Hereford cow in America weighs over 1,400 pounds. The status quo seed-stock producers have successfully out-Simmentalled the Sentimentals. Unfortunately, as cow size has increased, profitability has decreased. It doesn’t matter how big your cattle are if they’re not profitable.

Why are cows as big as they are?

F or the past 40+ years… the status quo beef industry has been relentlessly focused on increasing production per cow (weaning weight). Although this has provided some bragging rights, it has been detrimental to ranch profits. As individual weaning weights increase, pounds and profit per acre decrease.

Because big cows need to eat substantially more than smaller cows just to meet their maintenance requirements, ranches have been forced decrease stocking rate and/or to increase supplemental feeding. With the cost of land and feed as high as they are, it is quickly becoming less and less profitable to own those big, high-maintenance cows. Ask your banker if he thinks you should focus on bragging rights or on profit.

Since smaller cows need to eat much less to meet their maintenance requirements and since they are able to wean a higher percentage of their own body weight, they will always produce more total pounds and more total profit than big cows – on the exact same acres. To add insult to injury, there is growing evidence that smaller cows will actually wean bigger calves than big cows in a real-world, un-pampered environment.

How can this be?

The big cows do not fit their environment. Your ranch can only support so much growth, frame and milk. Once you go beyond that level, you will have to provide expensive supplementation to meet the needs of your big, high-maintenance cows. Without heavy supplementation, your weaning weights and conception rates will suffer. Maintenance requirements must be met before any growth or reproduction can take place.

It shouldn’t surprise you that most of the bulls being sold today were produced by high-maintenance, 5 to 7-frame cows that weigh 1400 to 1800 pounds. These cows must be pampered to stay in production. What size and type of replacement females will these bulls produce? Like begets like! If you are concerned about long-term, sustainable profit, then thick, easy-fleshing, low-maintenance, 3 to 4-frame cows that weigh 1100 to 1250 pounds are plenty big enough.- Kit Pharo

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