Many beef farmers place a good high mature weight as the most important factor when planning sires for the year ahead.
However, to go exclusively off of that would be foolish, and if they are on a small to medium sized operation it could lead to problems down the line.
While British cattle breeds like the Angus, Hereford and Shorthorn may have a smaller mature weight than Continental European breeds like Belgian Blues or Charlois, they tend to reach their mature weight much earlier.
A cow will eat a percentage of their body weight each day. Because the bigger cattle will eat more each day, they will cost more to feed. 70-75% of the total energy consumed by a suckler herd goes towards maintaining a cow’s body condition alone.
If you had physically smaller cows you could support an additional head with the money you’ve saved from not feeding a more demanding breed.
Given the fodder crisis brought on by the Irish weather last year, this could be an attractive alternative for well-prepared farmers.
However, the real benefit of lowering cow size comes at calving time. If you can afford to keep 20% more cows, due to their smaller feed demands, you can produce 20% additional calves.
Larger calves can cause issues at calving time, especially in cows that have a larger mature weight. Belgian Blue cattle are known for their impressive mature weight but notorious for their high rate of calving difficulties.
Because of this, cesarean sections are often (if not primarily) needed by this breed. This is a major drawback given the relatively high cost of the surgery in Ireland.
However, one counter argument to this is that in a country with rich grazing your feeding costs will be naturally lower.
Additionally, the advances in technology have drastically reduced the rate of calf mortality; in the case of the Moocall calving sensor the farmer is able to call in help much earlier because they know hours in advance of when their cow is going to calf.
Can you think of any more? Would your operation fare better with larger cattle? Let us know in the comments below.
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