Top the Market – and Lose Money –

I recently received a call from a consultant who claimed to be working with several cow-calf producers in the southeast.  This consultant was interested in helping his clients become profitable and wanted to know if Pharo Cattle Company could help.

 I was surprised when this so-called “consultant” spent so much time explaining the importance of “topping the market” at local sale barns.  He also placed emphasis on cattle with larger frames and higher growth.   I began to wonder if he was consulting for feedyards or for cow-calf producers. 

The Diet Factor –


In last week’s PCC Update, Tim Goodnight said, Without discounting the importance of body condition at calving, I think it is important to understand that the plane of gain an animal is experiencing is equally – if not more important.   Research shows that thin cows coming out of winter experiencing a positive plane of gain into the calving season will have a higher conception rate than fat cows that are experiencing a negative plane of gain because they were fed and pampered through the winter.”

Tim chose to write about this because he wanted to refute what a couple of PCC customers had said about body condition in a recent PCC Discussion thread.  

It Won’t Cost a Dime –

The first step most cow-calf producers need to take to double their profits will not cost them a dime and it will not require any physical labor.   It will require nothing more than a change in thinking.   Producers must STOP focusing on pounds and profit per animal – and START focusing on pounds and profit per acre.

Contrary to popular opinion, trying to increase pounds per animal (bragging rights) will always have a negative effect on net profits.  

PCC Star Ratings –

In addition to EPDs, weights, ratios and ultrasound data, Pharo Cattle Company provides star ratings for the following traits on our sale bulls.   A 5-star rating is the best – with 3-star being about average.

  • Disposition
  • Calving Ease
  • Cow Longevity
  • Udder Conformation
  • Low Maintenance
  • Grass Efficiency
  • Fleshing Ability
  • Thickness
  • Muscling
  • Masculinity
  • Overall Rating
  • Hair Coat
  • Fly Resistance

 NO ONE else in this business has even attempted to provide you with as much useful information as we do.  

No Grass –

In early January, I gave a ranch tour to a couple from Alberta, Canada.   They had been to a Ranching for Profit school in Colorado Springs.   When I showed them the cowherd, they said, “This is the first grass we have seen since we left Colorado Springs.”   Nearly all of the land between here and Colorado Springs is grassland – but there was very little grass to see.   They were shocked at how badly everyone had abused and overgrazed their grass.

How to Identify the Best Cows –

 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.  

NO Bottom End –

We just finished evaluating bulls in Texas, Missouri and Colorado in preparation for our spring bull sales.   We had many visitors attend all of our bull workdays.   This was the first time for some.   Others have attended our bull workdays every year for several years.   Everyone was very impressed with the overall quality of our Solar Bulls.   I guarantee you won’t find bulls like this anywhere else.

 Over the years, there has been very little change to the top end of our bulls.  

Late Weaning –

 Following last week’s PCC Update, we received several questions about late weaning and why we choose to leave calves on their mothers over the winter. 

 For starters, it’s natural.   In nature, there is no herdsman to wean the offspring.   In fact, when a doe gives birth to a fawn, there is often a yearling not far away.   Along with mimicking nature, running one herd requires less time, labor and money.   Late weaning will allow the calves to learn what to eat,

First and Foremost –

 When purchasing bulls, the most important factor to consider is the program behind the bulls.   Bulls that were produced in a program that aligns with your long-term goals are worth a whole lot more than bulls coming out of a program that does not align with your long-term goals.   This is so obvious it should go without saying.

 However, I have visited with hundreds of cow-calf producers who say they want to produce efficient, 1100 to 1200-pound cows that can wean 50% of their own weight for many years without being pampered – only to find out they have been buying bulls that were produced by 1400 to 2000-pound cows that must be pampered to stay in production.

Letter to the Editor –

 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.  

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.

Be Honest with Yourself –


If you are a cow-calf producer, I encourage you to be honest with yourself when you answer the following two questions.   Were you profitable in 2019?   If you were profitable, would you be able to prosper with that level of profitability year after year after year?   According to what I have read and heard, very few cow-calf producers showed much profit in 2019.   Most did good just to break even.   Many did not break even.

Contrary to popular opinion, there are many cow-calf producers who were very profitable in 2019.  

Feed Efficiency… How We Got It All Wrong

Defining and measuring feed efficiency is something I have always struggled with.   It’s definitely not as easy as science wants it to be.   Science wants to break everything down into understandable bits and pieces.   Unfortunately, that won’t work in the real world.   The real world is made up of wholes with thousands of interactive pieces.

Before we continue, we need to understand that all beef animals fall into two basic categories.   Some animals are destined to end up on the dinner table, while others are working in a cowherd to produce more beef animals.  

Can’t Do That Here –

 No matter where I go, I hear people say, “You can’t do that here,” in reference to many of the management concepts we share in our presentations, our newsletters and our PCC Updates.   In most cases, there are people within 100 miles of them doing exactly what they say cannot be done.   Most of the “can’t do that here” people are slowly but surely going broke as the cost of inputs continues to increase.

 Henry Ford once said,

Who is Working for Who?


While most people work for their money, the most successful people make their money work for them.   Likewise, while most cattlemen work for their cows, the most successful cattlemen make their cows work for them.   Who is working for who on your farm or ranch?

 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,

Report from West Virginia –

I flew to West Virginia last Thursday.   I spoke to a group of cow-calf producers Friday night.   I was happily surprised to see so many PCC customers at that meeting.   I think there were people from seven or eight different states.   The Spiker Dispersal Sale took place on Saturday.   John Spiker purchased a load of PCC-Influenced heifers and a PCC bull in the fall of 2008.   He has been using PCC genetics exclusively since then.   A few of those original cows are still in production.

Create the Future of Your Dreams –


If success was easy, everyone would be remarkably successful.   Unfortunately, very few people can be classified as remarkably successful.   Success, however, does appear to be easy for some people.   If you look closer, you will discover those people are very driven and focused.   They make things happen.   They see opportunities most people miss.   They are not afraid to step outside their comfort zone.   They are not afraid to try what others say cannot be done.

We still believe there will be more opportunities for you and your family operation to advance in the next ten years than there have been in the last 30 years – but only if you are able to break away from the status quo,

Understanding… the Cost and the Value of Gain –


It seems as though most cow-calf producers are always looking for ways to increase weaning weights.   They can accomplish their goal by using large-framed, high-growth bulls, feeding expensive supplements, implanting calves and by using wormers and other toxic chemicals.  Of course, the companies that market these products claim they will increase both pounds and profit.   While these products may increase calf weights, they don’t necessarily increase profits. 

 The example below illustrates that not all pounds produced are created equal and that the value of gain is often much lower than we think.