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What Is Disposition Worth?

If you’re shopping for a herd sire this spring, there are certainly many factors to consider -- growth, calving ease, carcass traits, genomics, rate of gain, lineage, etc. Depending on your breeding strategy or needs, some traits are worth more than others; however, I believe there is one trait that is worth its weight in gold, and that’s disposition.

The average age of the rancher is 58 years old and, as a result, many producers may not be as spry as they used to be when it comes to avoiding ornery cows or over-protective mamas. This can result in injuries, some even life-threatening.

For example, a few years ago, a rancher from South Dakota tried to tag a newborn calf next to his four-wheeler; hours later, his daughter found him pinned down by the cow. He suffered severe head trauma and was in an extended coma.

While this is a severe case, injuries around livestock aren’t uncommon. It should make us all pause and think about which of our own cows should be culled for temperament issues. As my grandma so aptly puts it, the best thing you can do for a wild or mean cow is to “put wheels under her.”


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In our operation, my dad has had no choice but to cull heavily for bad dispositions. With a wife and three daughters as his main chore help, we were very quick to put mean cows on our cull list if they caused us any trouble. Aside from selecting for good docility, I believe temperaments can be improved through regular handling and management, as well. 

Temperament has been a big priority in our breeding program over the years, and I love working around our calm cattle. It makes for a stress-free working environment when you don't have to constantly worry about flighty and mean cattle. However, there’s always room for continued improvement.

How big of a priority is disposition in your breeding and purchasing decisions? How long will you tolerate a mean cow in your operation? How easy are your cattle to work with during calving season? What steps do you take to calm cattle with poorer dispositions? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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