Tough Environments Require Tough Cows

Mark Johnson, Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Cattle Breeding Specialist, offers herd health advice as part of the weekly series known as the “Cow Calf Corner” published electronically by Dr. Peel, Mark Johnson, and Paul Beck. Today, Johnson is talking about achieving benchmarks in the cow herd.

Recently I had the opportunity to interview James Henderson of Bradley 3 Ranch on our Ranchers Lunchtime webinar series. The Bradley 3 Ranch is located in Memphis, TX and has a earned a reputation for producing high quality Angus and Charolais seedstock that are uniquely well-adapted to their environment.  The Bradley 3 Ranch is famous, innovative and award winning.  The title of my article this is borrowed from James Henderson’s topic last week. 

The tough environment the 600 head of registered cows at Bradley 3 Ranch is described by James as follows:

  • Low rainfall (23 inch average per year, considerably less than average over the past 18 months)
  • Bad water (high in nitrates and sulfates)
  • Large acreage (16,000 acre ranch)
  • Temperature extremes (-10 to 123 degrees F)
  • Heavy brush
  • Toxic weeds
  • Predators

The tough cows were described as follows:

  • Athletic and capable of covering a lot of ground to get to forage and water
  • Will drink water that taste bad
  • Will survive in extreme temperatures (hair shedders)
  • Will protect a calf during birth and after
  • Learns to avoid toxic plants
  • Can maintain body condition in weather extremes
  • Will cycle and breed in all conditions
  • Will raise a calf to weaning every year
  • Will adapt to the environment through natural selection
  • Angus cows average mature weight of 1195, average weaning off 50% (or better) of their mature weight each year (600 lb. weaned calves)
  • Charolais cows average mature weight of 1400, average weaning off 48-50% of their mature weight each year (670 – 700 lb. weaned calves)
  • On a whole herd basis, Bradley 3 Ranch averages an 86% calf crop weaned as compared to a national average percent calf crop weaned of 78%.

James Henderson encourages producers to do the math and manage their beef operation like a business.  Hold cows accountable.  Another interesting point he made was the donor cow selection criteria.  In order for a cow to make the cut for the Bradley 3 Ranch ET program she is a 10 year old who has ratioed 105 or better on each calf weaned, each year she has been in production.  Wow! A very high standard.

Bottomline: Your cowherd can achieve the benchmarks for performance that you establish and hold them accountable for.  If you will be growing your cow inventory in the future, take measures to insure your cowherd matches your production environment and intended marketing endpoint for the calves you will produce. 

The presentation from James Henderson from April 6th, as well as the entire Ranchers Lunchtime series webinars can be viewed at:

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