Ag notes, Jan. 31

Published 8:39 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Improving beef cattle herds

One of the best ways to boost beef cattle profits is to use genetics to improve the efficiency of your herd. Prioritize traits to meet the goals of your operation. This will provide as many pounds of beef as possible off every available acre at a minimal cost.

Herd efficiency does not always equate with a maximum rate of gain. For example, you might be able to get more pounds per acre by putting 20 medium-sized cows on a pasture that only would support 15 big cows. Additionally, the smaller cows might improve your profitability under drought conditions because they would require fewer resources to remain reproductively fertile than the larger animals. 

The breeding system should match the right bull to a set of cows to maximize the production level. When choosing sires, or making any management decision, always rank each trait on its economic importance to the operation. It is important to focus on those factors for which you are getting paid. For example, if you sell all progeny, choose a bull with the genetic traits to maximize production.  However, if you produce replacement heifers, select a bull with moderate growth and frame size and maternal characteristics that match your nutritional resources.

It is desirable to use the following criteria to select all sires.  They should be reproductively and structurally sound, pass a visual appraisal of such traits as body capacity and muscling, and have performance traits measurable by expected progeny differences (EPDs) whenever possible.

In addition to genetics, you can improve the profitability of a beef cattle operation by developing a good health program, controlling feed costs, harvesting forages at the right maturity to maximize quality, and using growth implants in non-replacement calves.

For more information, contact the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.  University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Kentucky Counties, Cooperating.

Jerry Little, County Extension Agent for Agriculture/Natural Resources