The following is a portion of a letter to the editor I found in a popular beef magazine a couple of years ago. It is in reference to getting young cows bred back with their second and third calves. I think it speaks volumes about what has been going on with most cow-calf producers.
“Even though I feed the best alfalfa hay and supplement with molasses tubs, I can’t keep enough condition on them to breed back. The heifers with the biggest calves as two-year-olds will almost always be among those that are open the next year. Any ideas? I’ve been doing this since I was 16, and I‘m 78 now.” ~ Frustrated in Idaho
Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again – expecting different results. Most cow-calf producers are very good at treating the symptoms while totally ignoring the problem. The symptom in this case is young cows that are too thin to breed back with their second and third calves.
The problem in this case is 40+ years of selecting for more and more frame, growth and milk, which is exactly what most producers have been doing – and continue to do. In their attempt to increase production per cow (bragging rights), they are producing cows with maintenance requirements that are too high to fit any environment – outside of a feedlot.
This rancher has been treating the symptom of his problem by feeding more and more expensive hay and supplements. Treating the symptoms will NEVER solve any problem. It will just keep you busy, frustrated and broke. Since this rancher has been in the cow-calf business for 62 years, I’m sure he can remember a time when he could get his young cows to breed back without feeding any expensive hay or supplements.
The solution in this case is simple! This rancher needs to produce cows that fit his environment – instead of artificially changing the environment to fit his cows. To do this, he needs to purchase bulls with extremely low maintenance requirements. Pharo Cattle Company has spent the last 30+ years producing ultra-low-maintenance cattle that can increase pounds and profit per acre in every environment they have been placed in.
When we finished working bulls on Monday, I took a couple of customers from New Brunswick on a ranch tour (they traveled 2,200 miles to participate in our Bull Workdays). While in the pasture, I took the picture above to accompany this article. This is a coming-three-year-old with her first calf. This calf was born in May of 2019 when the cow was two years old. The calf will not be weaned until March of 2020 when it is 10 months old. We deliberately push our young cows to the limit – and expect them to breed back in a 45-day breeding season. Most of them do!