North Central Research Extension Center


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Strategies to make Big Cows (been there done that)

Pick impressive high growth sires that are in the breed’s top 5 or 10% for YW EPD; preferably with above average muscle and bone structure reflective of carcass merit. Avoid dumpy appearances making sure they  have some frame, the kind that will sire those good stretchy calves the feeders love to push to 1500 pounds as calf feds and are capable of four plus pounds per day.

At weaning, sort off the heavy, big, good doing heifers.  Pick the ones that index well above average and can be expected to produce similarly as replacements. Since heifer development is critical and the foundation of the cowherd, lot them up and make sure they are on a good nutrition program; hay, silage, along with limited grain for 200 days should have them smooth, thick, eye appealing and weighing 900-1000 pounds at breeding and all cycling. With a little luck most all of them will be bred and come into the herd.

Get them home early in the fall and sorted from the cowherd by mid-winter since they are still growing and exposed to calf a few weeks earlier than the herd. With a bit of supplement and/or some silage you can keep them in beautiful condition, have them well grown to minimize calving troubles and mirroring those 1300 plus pound bred heifers setting the highs at cow sales. Be sure at calving they have a BCS of 6 as recommended, or even a bit higher to further insure high subsequent fertility.

If you remain a good steward, cut back to stay appropriately stocked, and meet their nutritional needs year to year they will likely mature out at 1600 to 1800 lbs with high value when culled helping the ranch revenue to remain profitable. Hopefully they also perform very well: stay in condition, breed on time, and raise some really heavy market topping calves.

However if cow size is a concern, because of less adaptability to nutritional stress and a greater need for supplemental feeding, or if it makes sense to stock with more lower input cows and achieve added efficiency through terminal matings;  the strategy for smaller cows requires some opposite thinking.

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