My View From The Country

Drought Is Causing A New Focus On Milk EPDs

Commercial beef producers are struggling with the dilemma of finding the optimum level of milk EPD for their environment.

Commercial cattlemen are looking hard at milk EPDs these days. Nearly every breed continues to show a relatively strong upward trend in milk EPDs, but the drought has caused producers to look long and hard at the level of milk production from a maintenance requirement standpoint. Numerous industry research papers show that cows with higher genetic levels for milk not only have increased maintenance requirements while nursing, but increased maintenance requirements when they’re dry.

The drought has forced many producers to adopt early-weaning strategies, and many will continue to early-wean their calves because milk is an inefficient delivery system for weight gain of a calf. And, in an era of higher feed costs, putting weight on cattle in the most efficient manner equates to more profitability.

The dilemma that producers are struggling with is finding the optimum level for their environment. They try to determine a range based off the sires of the females they have in production that raise a good calf, and yet get bred early in the breeding season.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 23, 2013

We have tried to keep milk EPD's on the low side for years due to the above reasons, especially getting cows bred back on time with marginal feed supplies. Some bull buyers have asked about milk EPD's, and decided this was sound reasoning. High milk EPD's can also mean such an oversize teat a smaller calf may not be able to get a hold of it and starve if not found. I went through this with selecting high milking sheep decades ago. With lambs tending to be smaller on multiple births, the oversize teat issue could cause a lamb to starve if not for help with the first nursing.

Tom Smith (not verified)
on Apr 1, 2013

It all boils down to your environment. If you have lush pastures with abundant high-quality forage, then larger cows that produce more milk may be more efficient if they re-breed and wean enough extra pounds of calf to pay for it. On native range or drought-stressed pastures, moderate-sized fertile cows with adequate milk production will yield more dollars year-in and year-out. Optimal milk production and cow size will never be the same across the nation or even across most states. As for teat size, a good portion of that is genetic. I have some maternal lines that are heavy milkers and last well into their teens without udder problems. These make up the majority of my replacement heifers.

JD Golonka (not verified)
on Apr 1, 2013

Kinda makes me think about the production managers in other industries in the height of the recession. They started getting rid of the excess, whether it be employees or any other fat, mostly to no avail. The poor managers still went broke. Grandpa says"If they dont cost as much you dont need to make as much" I will stick with that advice and you can keep your epd's,seems like they have busted a lot of good people.

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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