Submitted to: Florida Cattleman
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 27, 2006
Publication Date: April 29, 2006
Citation: Coleman, S.W., Chase, C.C., Riley, D.G. 2006. Cow efficiency and adaptation. Florida Cattleman. Volume 70, No.7,April 2006, p43-44.
Efficiency of beef production is one of those terms that probably means something different to each person discussing the topic. Certainly, efficiency means something different to the packer than to the feeder or cow-calf producer. Beef production practices, and especially breeding, have been largely influenced by feed conversion (one measure of efficiency) in the feedlot and in dressing percentage (another measure of efficiency) at the slaughter facility. Under these influences, larger framed, growthier cattle that consume the most feed per day appear to be the most efficient feed converters. How do these influences affect the other segments of the beef industry, especially the cow-calf producer? The Gulf Coast and Southeast contain almost 40% of the U.S. cow-calf population. The climate and soils of the region are well suited for production of warm season perennial forage grasses. These grasses produce large amounts of dry matter during the growing season, are low to moderate in quality, and usually die with the first frost and do not grow during the winter. Therefore, a cow suited to the region must be able to consume and process large amounts of this available forage, and perhaps to withstand the feast-famine production regime characteristic of the wet-dry tropics. A large part of the costs for producing a calf in Florida, the Gulf Coast, and Southeastern US are winter feed costs for the cow. A study was conducted at the STARS in the ‘70s that showed the importance of cows being adapted to the production environment. Cows from a line (Line 1) and from a line (Line 6) in Florida were used in the experiment. One-half of the cows from each location were shipped to the other location. After 10 years, FL-L6 cows produced calves with weaning weights of 174 kg at either location. Montana L1 cows produced calves with weaning weights of 188 kg in Montana, but only 161 kg in Florida. While the MT-L1 cows (and calves) had the genetic potential to produce ~14 kg more than the FL-L6 cows, that genetic potential could not be realized in the Florida environment. The physiological reason for the interaction could not be determined at the time.