In the beginning, God created the cow to eat the grass and other forages that man was not able to eat or digest. I’m sure God’s original cow was very efficient at converting low quality forages into milk and meat. Because of her unique four-stomach digestive system, she was able to eat and digest plants that could not be utilized by man or most other animals. I don’t know what color she was and I don’t know what shape or size she was, but I do know she had the genetic ability to adapt to many different environments.
When God created man he gave him dominion over the cattle (Genesis 1:26). Over the years, man was successful in populating most of the earth with descendants of God’s original cow. When placed in a new environment, these cows were able to adapt and change by “natural” selection into the most efficient animal for their new surroundings. Those that could not adapt did not survive.
Man, in all his wisdom… eventually realized he could create the cow of his dreams through “artificial” selection. Color, size and shape suddenly became more important than efficiency and adaptability. Right from the start, different men had different ideas about what the perfect cow should look like. Some wanted them red, while some wanted them black. Some wanted to produce draft animals, while others selected strictly for milk or beef production. These men became the original seedstock producers – and the race was on to create the perfect breed.
In order to preserve the traits they deemed to be most important, these breeders found it necessary to artificially change the cow’s environment. They did this by providing the cow with extra feed and care. She was no longer required to survive strictly on the forage resources found within her environment. Man finally succeeded in producing cows with the preferred color, size and shape – but they were not as efficient or as profitable as their ancestors had been.
Back to Basics… To be profitable, today’s cattlemen need to get back to basics! We need to produce cows that fit our environment, instead of artificially changing the environment to fit our cows! Cows must be environmentally adapted to efficiently convert our available forage resources into beef – with a minimum amount of inputs. Profit is measured by subtracting our expenses from our income. It is affected very little by the color and/or breed of our cattle.
Our goal at Pharo Cattle Company is to identify and produce seedstock animals that can produce and reproduce with minimum inputs – in many different environments. We believe a cow ought to be supporting the ranch, instead of being supported by the ranch. Chip Hines, a good friend of mine, says, “Your cows don’t care if you are profitable or not. If you’re willing to do the work for them, they’ll let you.” Our cows run on short native grass year-round with essentially no hay or supplements. We let the environment sort out the good ones, while we show absolutely no sympathy for open, late or dry cows.
Thought Question: Suppose you could turn your entire cowherd loose in the wild with absolutely no human contact for 50 years. What do you think the survivors would look like?