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. WOW! The status quo seedstock industry has successfully out-Simmentalled the Simmentals. 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?
For the past 50 years… the status quo beef industry has focused almost single-mindedly on increasing production per cow (weaning weight). Although this has provided some bragging rights, it has been very detrimental to ranch profits. As individual weaning weights increase, pounds and profit per acre decrease. Average cow-calf producers of today are much less profitable than they were 50 years ago – and it continues to get worse.
Since big cows need to eat substantially more than smaller cows just to meet their maintenance requirements, producers have been forced to reduce stocking rates 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 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, unpampered environment (see table below).
Notice… as cow size increases, weaning weights decrease. This is the exact opposite of what most people would expect to happen. After all, the reason everyone has big cows is to increase individual weaning weights.
So, what happened? 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 point, you will have to provide expensive supplementation to meet the needs of your big, high-maintenance cows. Without expensive supplementation, your weaning weights and your conception rates will suffer. Maintenance requirements must be met before any weight gain 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 profit, then thick, easy-fleshing, low-maintenance, 3 to 4-frame cows that weigh 1100 to 1250 pounds are plenty big enough (pictured below).
These 10-year-old Solar Cows are very feminine in appearance. They are wedge-shaped – and they carry a tremendous amount of thickness and condition. Even during a severe drought, with calves at side, they met their maintenance requirements and were able to store up energy in the form of fat. They were ready to re-breed 30 days prior to our breeding season.