At the Alltech Global 500 last week in Lexington, KY, one of my favorite parts of the event was the discussion dinner. Following a steak supper, a topic was introduced and the microphone was passed around among the group to debate. We talked about everything from genetics to nutrition, and when one individual called for consolidation of the beef industry to eliminate variability, I had a different perspective to offer.
Instead of looking at it as variability -- after all, there are 742,000 unique herds in the U.S. -- I like to think of it as individuality. I asked participants in the discussion dinner to picture their perfect cow. What traits does she have? What breed is she? What are your priorities? Milking ability? Longevity? Performance? Soundness? Disposition?
Chances are, if you’re picturing your ideal female right now, your image is different than your neighbors and different than mine. That’s what makes the beef industry great -- there’s more than one way to raise a steak. And we each get to approach it on the cow-calf level in the best way we see fit, based on the availability of feedstuffs, the environment and weather, our operation’s set-up and the market we are aiming for.
After having this discussion at the conference, I thought it would be a good topic of conversation for this blog, as well. And, it was perfect timing that I received an email from W. Mark Hilton, DVM, Purdue University, who expressed an interest in hearing from ranchers about their perfect cow.
He offered the example of beef producers, Ronnie and Clint Manning from Macy, IN. The Mannings have a 12-year-old cow that has had 15 calves in 11 years -- including four sets of twins. This cow raised most of these calves on her own and always bred back each year on schedule. She has weaned 8,373 lbs. of calves for an average of 598 lbs./calf and an average of 761 lbs./year.
Do you have a cow that can match or beat that? Share your best cow and her statistics in the comments section below. Also, tell me what your ideal female is, including what breed or cross she might be, what she looks like and what traits make her great.
I’m looking forward to reading your comments; thanks for participating!