You've reached the Virginia Cooperative Extension Newsletter Archive.
These files cover more than ten years of newsletters posted on our old website
(through April/May 2009), and are provided for historical purposes only.
As such, they may contain out-of-date references and broken links.
To see our latest newsletters and current information, visit our website at
Newsletter Archive index:
Bullets for Survival in the Cow/Calf Business
Livestock Update, July 1996
The cow/calf segment of the beef cattle industry sat in the
catbird seat from 1987 to 1993 because there was shortage of
feeder cattle and an expanding backgrounding and cattle feeding
industry. The reverse is now true and the cow/calf segment has
become the whipping boy. There are four major elements of profit
in the cow/calf business. They are calving percent weaned, average
calf weaning weight, sale price per pound and cow maintenance cost.
There are a number of management bullets that form a check list,
involving making needed management shifts in each of these important
- A. Increase Calving Percent Weaned
- Health in terms of controlling reproductive diseases
such as Brucellosis, Tuberculosis, Leptospirosis
- Calving ease on heifers-Use heifer bulls.
- Use fertile bulls-soundness and semen check at the
start of each breeding season.
- Condition score-Females at breeding should score 5 to
7 on a scale of 1-9.
- Crossbreed-Crossbreeding has it's largest effect on
- Use large scrotal circumference bulls.
- Pregnancy check and cull females.
- B. Increase Calf Weight Weaned and Sold
- Crossbreed. Crossbreeding has it's biggest growth
promoting effect on weaning weight.
- Background calves. At least the lighter end.
- Wean later when the average age of calves is older.
- Deworm nursing calves 75-90 days pre-weaning.
- Implant all steers and all heifers going to feedlot.
- Creep graze.
- Enough milk. Control with sires and crossbreeding
- Select for more growth in sires.
- C. Increase Value of Animals Sold
- Improve quality and uniformity of calf crop plus get
rid of extremes and non-conforming kinds.
- Improve genetics for carcass merit. Particularly
quality grade (controlled by sires and breeds.)
- Produce what buyers in your area pay the most for.
- Background and add weight to calves economically.
- Sell in load lots. Uniform as to outcome group.
- Utilize marketing methods. Get maximum competition
so as to sell at
- Market cull cows & bulls to the best advantage.
- D. Reduce Cow Maintenance Cost
- Good fleshing qualities in females.
- Moderate frame size in females.
- Cow herd must thrive on total forage program.
- Calve in synch with lowest cost feed supply.
- Utilize by-products and feedstuffs.
- Maximize use of grazing. Use controlled grazing.
- Utilize maximum standing forages, stockpiled grass
(i.e., fescue, etc.)
- Use best quality and poorest quality pasture and
feeds at right times in production cycle and to
the right class of cattle.
- Use bought supplements only where and when needed.
- E. Business
- Keep individual cow records. Identify cows and
- Cull cows based on reproduction and production.
- Know cost of producing a pound of weaned calf.
- Keep enterprise records. Know what makes and loses
- Prioritize cost and return items.
- BECOME A LOW COST, BUT HIGH NET INCOME PRODUCER.
- Look at equipment cost with a jaundiced eye.
- Make decisions on raising or buying replacement
females based on profit potential.
- F. Breeding
- Settle on the right breeds for your program.
- Simplify crossbreeding program for uniform results.
- Buy genetics (bulls or semen) based on EPDs.
- Find a seedstock breeder or two whose programs suit
you and buy all bulls for natural service from them
- Use high accuracy bulls A.I. if possible. If not,
use natural service bulls that are sons of these
- Females must fit your farm environment.
- Add market value with sires used.
Virginia Cooperative Extension