Change the Cow – NOT the Environment –

Cows must fit their environment to stay in production.   Common sense tells us it is much easier, as well as much more profitable, to change the cow to fit the environment than it is to artificially change the environment to fit the cow.

 Your environment can only support so much size, growth and milk.   Once you go beyond that point, you will have to reduce stocking rates and/or use expensive inputs to artificially change the environment.   That may have worked when calf prices were ridiculously high a few years ago – but it won’t work now.

 It doesn’t take a genius to see that nearly all purebred operations have spent the last 50 years focused on maximizing production per cow (bragging rights) – instead of production per acre (profit).   As a result, they have big (5 to 7-frame), high-milking cows that no longer fit any real-world ranch environment.   The trouble with big, high-milking cows is they require a tremendous amount of feed just to meet their maintenance requirements.   Maintenance requirements must be met before any weight gain or reproduction can take place.

 Ironically, the beef industry reached the point where there has been no significant increase in weaning weight many years ago.   The cows keep getting bigger and bigger, but weaning weights have leveled off.   The only way to make those big, high-maintenance cows produce bigger calves is to pour the feed to them.   That is a surefire recipe for failure!   As you attempt to increase production per cow, your production and profit per acre will decrease.   Is that what you want?

 Pharo Cattle Company has spent the last 30+ years producing low-maintenance cattle that can increase pounds and profit per acre in every environment they have been placed.   We have cooperative herds from Minnesota to hot, humid fescue country in Missouri and Mississippi and all the way to the high-plains desert.   We also have cooperative herds from the southern plains of Texas all the way to the northern plains of Montana and North Dakota.   We have sold bulls into 44 of the 50 states – including Hawaii.   We have also sold bulls to customers in Canada, Mexico and Australia.

A cow ought to be supporting the ranch – instead of being supported by the ranch!   Who is working for who?   The only cows that can effectively support the ranch are moderate-sized, low-maintenance cows that fit their environment.   The only way to produce cows that fit their environment is to use bulls that were produced by moderate-sized, low-maintenance cows that fit their environment.   Like begets like!   As long as you continue to use bulls that were produced by high-maintenance, 5 to 7-frame cows that must be pampered to stay in production, you will NEVER produce cows that fit your environment.

6 responses to “Change the Cow – NOT the Environment –

  1. I am in the process of reducing my cow frame sizes and i am very interested in cattle genetics and low maintenance cows. I have been noticing my cows for the last couple months and a few of my larger frame cows are in better condition than my smaller frame ones. Is this possibly because some of the smaller ones are heavy milkers? Just trying to pick the easy keepers.

    1. Kevin, I suspect you right about the smaller cows having too much milk. Maintenance requirement is a factor of frame, growth and milk.

  2. Interesting article, makes a lot of sense. Saves a lot of time, otherwise nature would take much longer and the end product would be less desirable. When all else fails common sense is usually the best answer.

  3. “Select your cows for your country and the bulls for your market”.  I have never forgotten this dictum from  a successful old rough country cattleman.  The MOST low maintenance cow we have ever encountered is the Longhorn who when bred to a traditional beef bull will raise the fattest calf under bad conditions, which can be sold straight off her as a good vealer.  She never seems to need worming, if she gets some lice she seems to get rid of them, her hooded eyes mean no eye troubles and her small highset udder means no udder troubles.  If she leans off under bad conditions while feeding her calf she fattens up quicker than any other cow we have dealt with when things improve.  She is also equipped mentally and physically to ward off predators.  A wonderful cow, but definitely not considered as such among the general run of cattle breeders.

    1. I have a handful of Longhorn cows left from an initial number of 25 head. I appreciate them for all the traits you mentioned. However, with the last set of steers I sold, the Longhorn X calves sold for $200 per head less than my English calves of the same weight. I had an epiphany while admiring a Longhorn cow in the pasture when I realized she was surrounded by English type cattle who were producing much higher value calves in the exact same conditions.

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