Optimum Cow. . .
rising land, feed and energy costs, there has been a lot of discussion
lately about what the so-called “optimum” cow is.
Most of the discussions I have heard or read lead you to believe
optimum is different for different environments. A few will lead
you to believe the optimum cow could be different for different
people within the same environment. I’m not sure I agree
with either of those viewpoints. I don’t think it is that
most ranchers, the optimum cow is the most profitable cow — the
cow that can do the most for the least. When we consider cow
efficiency, a smaller cow will always have an advantage over
a bigger cow. Smaller cows can do more for less. If your ranch
can support 100 head of 1400-pound cows, it will support 120
head of 1100-pound cows — on the exact same inputs. That’s
20% more cows producing 20% more calves — and I guarantee
those 120 smaller cows will always produce more total pounds
of beef than the 100 larger cows. On top of that, the calves
out of the smaller cows (because they have smaller individual
weights) will be worth more per pound.
smaller cows can produce more total pounds that are worth more
per pound on the exact same inputs — then smaller cows
are obviously much closer to optimum than bigger cows. So, how
small can we go? Is there a point at which smaller cows cease
to be more profitable than bigger cows?
nearly all cow-calf producers are in the commodity business,
the product they produce must fit within the current parameters
of the commodity beef industry. If their product is too big or
too small, it will be discounted. Therefore, we can only reduce
cow size to the point that our calves still fit the parameters
of the existing corn-based commodity beef industry.
optimum cow size at Pharo Cattle Company is a 2 to 4 frame cow
that weighs 1000 to 1250 pounds. Cows that are bigger than this
are not efficient or profitable enough to carry their own weight.
Cows that are smaller than this, even though they are extremely
efficient, may produce calves that are too small to work well
in the existing corn-based system.
will say, “Since I live in a better environment, I can
have bigger cows.” I don’t see what difference that
makes. I could have a whole herd of 1800-pound cows if I wanted
to — but the herd wouldn’t be very big. No matter
how good or how bad your environment is, you can run a higher
number of smaller cows that will always out-produce a smaller
herd of big cows.
~ Kit Pharo