How can you identify the most efficient and most profitable cows in a cowherd? The answer is so simple most people miss it. The most efficient and profitable cows in an unpampered cowherd will always be the oldest cows. These are cows that have done everything right without missing for at least twelve years.
NOTE: When I say “unpampered ranch,” I am referring to a ranch that requires their cows to graze year-round with little or no hay or other supplements. They must also require their cows to wean a calf every year – no excuses and no second chances.
Unpampered, teenage cows have addressed all of the issues relative to fertility, maintenance requirements, size, production, structural soundness, mothering ability and disposition. These are time-proven cows that can seldom be improved upon. My long-time friend Jim Sanders, with Texas A&M, once said, “One way to define longevity is simply a lack of problems.” I couldn’t agree more!
In my opinion… cow longevity is the most important maternal trait. Therefore, it should be measured and selected for. Many years ago, Pharo Cattle Company created a formula based on all of the cows in a bull’s 4-generation pedigree to calculate a longevity score for the bulls we sell. Scores range from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being the very best. Since this score is affected most by the age of the bull’s dam, we admit there are potential problems with our formula.
For example. it’s fairly common for bulls out of young cows to have a below average score for longevity, because we do not know if his dam will still be around ten years from now, or not. However, there are many instances where a bull out of a young cow has an above average score for longevity. This happens because the rest of his pedigree is loaded with old cows. I like to select for bulls with a high score for longevity – but I will show some leniency toward bulls out of young cows.
Another way to sort for cow longevity is to use our unique Quick Sort program – and sort for a cow age of three or four. Our low-input program can be very hard on young cows. We treat our first-calf heifers just like the older cows. We do not provide any special care for our young cows. If a cow has successfully weaned two or three calves in consecutive years, she will most likely still be around as a teenager.