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Comparing Size Performance and Efficiency

16 March 2009

US - When buying replacement heifers or cows, producers need to consider the relationship of their size preferences with cow performance and efficiency, said a University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist.

"Attend any cow or heifer sale and you will see that larger, heavier cows and heifers command the highest prices," said David Hoffman. "Cattle producers like to look at heavy cows in their front pastures, but do those big cows and heifers actually make more money?"

Maybe not. Hoffman cites a study from North Dakota State University that catalogued cows according to their average weight and respective performance. The heavier cows actually made fewer total dollars in terms of calf sales, Hoffman said.

Not only did the percentage of cow weight weaned decrease as cow weight increased, the actual weaning weight of the calves decreased, he said. For example, cows weighing 1,200 pounds or less weaned 50 percent of their fall weight with 617-pound calves, while cows that weighed more than 1,600 pounds weaned 34 percent of their fall weight with 572-pound calves.

"Another economic consideration is the number of cows to have in your herd," Hoffman said. "If a farm is capable of supporting 100 head of 1,400-pound cows, the same farm should have the capability of supporting 120 head of 1,200-pound cows. The primary difference is the smaller cows would eat less forage. Most producers would like to sell an additional 16 to 20 calves every year."

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