What does it mean to raise a productive cow? Does she have to have a calf every year, produce a calf that meets or exceeds your expectations at weaning and breed back each season without fail? Chances are you answered yes to each of these questions and maybe even require a little bit more out of your cowherd.
Profitability on the farm or ranch starts with the cow. Selecting the right cow for the environment plays heavily into the success of a cowherd. A cow that cannot maintain her body condition with the resources available has a greater probability of being open when the vet comes to pregnancy check. And every producer knows, an open cow is not a profitable cow.
Adding body condition to thin cows before breeding also requires more feed resources and more money. Instead, having a moderate-sized cow that will maintain herself on forage and minimal supplementation is a goal that most cow-calf operations can get behind.
The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center data shows Gelbvieh females have the most moderate mature cow size of the four major Continental cattle breeds.
Producers across the country are finding the benefit of Gelbvieh and Balancer®-influenced females as a part of their breeding program to maintain a moderate framed female without forfeiting calf performance.
“Between 1,250 to 1,350 is the cull weight on our cows and we’ve gotten to where we are selling 900-pound calves at 10 months of age,” said Bill Far of XA Cattle, near Moorefield, Nebraska. “Why we choose Balancers is because cow efficiency is number one. They are low maintenance, whether it’s from the work end of it, or the feed end of it, they are really efficient.”
Maternal efficiency equates to maternal profitability. Efficiency in the cowherd encompasses many factors. Reproductive productivity and genetics are two key factors of maternal efficiency. For years, Gelbvieh and Balancer seedstock suppliers have been providing producers with genetics that directly impact economic efficiency.
Commercial producers who have been raising Gelbvieh and Balancer cattle have witnessed substantial improvements in fertility and longevity of the cowherd while seeing increases in weaning weight coupled with low to moderate birth weights.
Bill Tucker, Tucker Farms, Amherst, Virginia, is quick to point out the ability for his Gelbvieh-influenced females to maintain their reproductive status, when stressed, better than any of the other breeds that they raise. This becomes very important during times of drought. His Gelbvieh influenced females can maintain fertility at a full body condition score less than other breeds.
“That in and of itself doesn’t only translate to her longevity, but also her economic efficiency in times when we don’t perhaps have the ideal inputs, but we don’t have animals falling out of the system,” Tucker said.
Cow-calf producers need to raise cows with staying power. Selecting genetics with built-in stayability is something that will provide a good return on investment for cattle producers.
The American Gelbvieh Association (AGA) publishes a stayablity EPD that predicts the genetic difference, in terms of percent profitability, that a bull’s daughters will stay productive within a herd to at least six years of age. According to a study (Brigham and Enns), Gelbvieh females in the AGA registry have more success staying in the herd at six years of age compared to females in the American Simmental Association and Red Angus Association of America registries.
Gelbvieh Influence Beyond the Cow
Gelbvieh cattle are not only known for their maternal capabilities, but also for post-weaning growth. Combine the Gelbvieh breed’s positive post-weaning traits with the power of heterosis gained by crossbreeding, and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with.
The advantage of crossbreeding is apparent both in the feedyard and on the rail. Balancer bulls have the ability to increase carcass weights, and the industry demanded quality grades without sacrificing yield.
“If you are looking for calves that go to the feedyard, in my experience, these composite calves grade well from a quality grade standpoint, and they also have favorable yield,” according to Wesley Welch, president and CEO of Spade Ranches, Lubbock, Texas.
Tucker uses Gelbvieh influence to add carcass weight, which is an important trait for him since his operation has been finishing out their steers for the last 22 years.
“We still get paid by the pound. Gelbvieh adds ribeye area, gainability and feed efficiency, which are all things we find highly valuable,” Tucker said.
Gelbvieh and Balancer seedstock suppliers are working hard to provide the industry with genetics to meet modern beef industry demands from the cow-calf to packer sectors.
Brigham, B.W., Speidel, S.E., Enns, R.M., Garrick, D.J.
(2007) Stayability to Alternate Ages
Meat Animal Research Center Progress Report #22