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Title: Fitting Cows to Your Operation

item Freetly, Harvey

Submitted to: Beef Improvement Federation Proceedings
Publication Type: Literature Review
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2009
Publication Date: 4/15/2009
Citation: Freetly, H.C. 2009. Fitting Cows to Your Operation. Beef Improvement Federation Proceedings. April 30-May 3, 2009, Sacramento, CA. p. 119-123.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Genetic diversity in cattle can be used to improve efficiency of the cow herd. A cow that is optimum in one production system may not be the best cow for another production system. To improve cow efficiency, we need to optimize the ratio of output to inputs. The optimum ratio on biological bases may not be the same optimum on economic bases. In some cases, it is advantageous to select cattle that need greater inputs if there is increased value in the products as a result of selecting that cow type. Evaluating the market endpoint, resources, and management preferences is the first step in determining the attributes that are needed in the cow herd. Sixty to seventy percent of the annual cow cost is associated with feed. The greatest proportion of feed energy is used to maintain cow body weight. Allowing the cow to fluctuate in body weight during the year is a management strategy that allows delaying the feeding of harvested feeds in favor of grazed feed. There is genetic diversity in the efficiency of cows to maintain weight and their ability to adapt to changing nutrient level. Feed energy required for milk production and growth of the fetal calf varies during the year. Matching peak periods of nutrient need to periods of peak quality and quantity of grazed forages is one approach to reduce inputs. Evaluating the amount of milk needed in a production system and matching cows that produce the desired quantity of milk is another strategy to reduce feed intake. Identifying which attributes are favorable in a cow is dependent on end markets and available resources.