In good seasons it’s easy to forget about the cost of feeding your breeding cows. While young cattle are nearly always adding value as they grow, once mature, cows move into a maintenance cycle with their value fluctuating up and down with pregnancy status, weight and condition.
In a self replacing breeding herd, it’s estimated that 75% of the grass grown goes toward maintaining the cow herd. That only leaves you with a quarter of your pasture productivity to generate sales!
So how does genetics contribute to profitability?
Maintenance vs Growth
Since the advent of EBVs in the 1980’s, we’ve known it’s illogical to have MCW that is greater than 600D weight. Put simply, it means your cows are bigger than their progeny at turn-off. At Stellar Livestock, we like to push that equation harder and aim for our herd bulls to have 400D greater than or equal to MCW. That’s around +100 which is top 20% for 400D and breed average for MCW. Growth EBVs are intrinsically linked to both birthweight and mature cow weight. There’s no point chasing extreme growth if it comes with uneconomical maintenance costs.
Poor efficiency is not the only cost of a production system dominated by big cows. Fertility also suffers – especially in a tough season – with later onset of puberty in heifers and cows lacking condition.
It’s easy to be seduced by big cash from big chopper cows but it’s important to measure business success as the entire system (profit) rather than sale price. Production systems with moderate cows will enjoy equal or greater profits with significantly less risk.
Carcase quality can drive profitability in two ways. Firstly, better muscled and better covered animals have an advantage when it comes to storing energy reserves in the good times and drawing down on that energy when feed becomes short. Better covered animals also produce better carcases with fat cover being important protection in the chiller.
Secondly, price premiums for strong IMF are real and available to both feeder steer producers and MSA graded grass-fed cattle.
Carcase traits are not antagonistic with other traits so there are no sacrifices made to include them in your breeding objective. Why wouldn’t you want to deliver the best product possible?
Pictured (top of page) at the end of a season of natural service. Videoed here at the begining of the season.
Quicksilver is an exciting new AI sire bred by Stellar Livestock.
When we talk about genetics to drive profitability, Quicksilver is a stellar example. He combines big 400 day growth which is greater than his moderate mature cow weight EBV. He has elite carcase traits with both IMF and EMA in the top 1% of the breed. He is among only a handful of animals in the breed to achieve this sort of EBV profile with strong structural EBVs.