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Who Has The Best Beef Cow? Here’s One Candidate

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Here’s your chance to brag about your best cows. Share your best female’s history in the comments section below.

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!

Discuss this Blog Entry 23

michael randolph (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

My favorite cow is a longhorn that i bought with a calf at side for my brother who is a UT fan. I paid 530.00 for the pair. I raise registerred angusand we breed her each year to an angus bull. She has raised 8 calves in 8 years. We wean the last calf when she calves back. In 8 years the least any of her calves has brought is 630.00 although only 2 have been heifers and i put both of those in my commercial herd. Every calf has brought more than the original investment, she has never had a rest,never had any additional care, never failed to cover her original cost.

tz (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

We had a cow that produced a calf for 16 years. It was always one of our biggest. She had a great disposition. We had cows on one side of a river and they would not cross the old wooden bridge. I put dot's head in a bucket and she led 50 cows across. We swore then she would live her life on the farm. We retired dot after those 16 calves. We buried her November 24th. She was 20 yrs old.

on Dec 11, 2012

the best cow that exists phenotypically is insignificant; the best cow that can be reproduced with regularity is the only cow that matters economically.
Mike Keeney
http://www.keeneyscorner.com/

John R. Dykers, Jr. (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

You are correct! Super Cow had a calf the first week in March every year for 12 years and weaning ratios were always above 107. After 10 such calves she qualified as a Charolais Diamond Dam of Distinction except according to the rules at the time she occassionally had more than 365 day calving interval, like the 5th of March instead of the 2nd! So silly that the AICA changed the rules! She was polled and had a full sister a year younger that was horned. Called her Super Sis! Super Cow had great bull calves that produced superior offspring, but her 3 heifer calves were only good, no matter our selection of bulls to breed them. Super Sis had one sick calf and did not qualify for honors, but she produced more pounds per calf and her heifers were better producers and her bull good but not great.
There are still too many variables in this complex biological system to KNOW and it still takes us 5 years to find out which cow or bull is REALLY great and then we still have the variable of breeding partner selection! We keep trying to improve out selection capability and adding the genome is sure to help some. ET calves are still siblings! Maybe cloning will be the next major advance.
johndykersmd@dykers.com

Steve and Jennifer Edeker (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

We have a 8-year-old cow that has had 11 calves in 7 years including 8 calves in the last 4 years. She had triplets in 2009 and twins last year and this year.

Steve and Jennifer Edeker
Tripoli, IA

Jim Sturrock (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

She has to be athletic being able to graze short hard grass even on 30% slops, travel a couple of miles for daily water to and from the area being grazed. Must be willing to fight to the death for her calf, bear, mountain lions or even the lowly coyote. Produce a calf yearly and in a year around calving season moving up 1 month annually after the age of 4. In wet years an adjusted weaning weight of 600 @ 210 days.Color isn't important. Nice to have them come to call for feed wagon. Workable weight of 1250 to 1325 for salvage value. Calves able to gain 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 lbs/day in a feed lot exceeding the mothers weight by slaughter at 18 months of age grading yield 1 low choice with 1/2 inch of back fat.

Jim Sturrock (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

correction on the slope to 60%. I've photos as proof it's possible even climbing a 3 foot step

W.E. (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

Our herd began in 1964, as part of a 4-H/FFA beef project. On our farm, the availability of feedstuffs, the environment and weather, our operation’s set-up and the market we are aiming for have always demanded grass-efficient cattle. Milking ability? Longevity? Performance? Soundness? Disposition? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Add the ability to produce a good quantity of high quality beef on grass only, and our ideal cow fits all of those requirements. In 1994, we bought a polled Hereford cow, i.d. 501U, that had already proven herself by weaning six high-performing calves, including two sets of twins, with an average calving interval of 365 days or less, qualifying her as a Benchmark Dam (now known as a Hereford Dam of Distinction). She was also an embryo donor. We brought her home, bred her, and continued to flush her to get embryos. During her lifetime, she raised a natural calf every year from 1988 until we sold her in 2003, when she was age eighteen. All told, she had records on sixteen natural calves in three different herds. Her natural calves, 7 bulls and 9 heifers, averaged nearly 600 pounds at weaning. Including her embryo calves, she had a total of 33 progeny. She produced four successful flushes of embryos, making the last flush of 38 high quality embryos in 1999, at age thirteen. By the way, here on our farm, this cow was able to produce calves and embryos and rebreed on a diet of grass and hay, without any corn. One of her daughters established a similar record here. Those two cows and a half dozen other Herefords with records of high productivity and longevity now stand behind the pedigrees of every female in our herd and most of our herd sires.

AB (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

Best cow in three generations of family ranching. A 1996 registered Simbrah cow. 4 sets of twins 5 natural calves and over 220 grade 1 embryos.

If i could, i would have her sleep in a bed next to ours, don´t care if the wife gets upset, i am sure she would not mind my snoring

Tom Smith (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

Your very best cow is probably not the one you thought when you selected your replacements. We have had 2 that stand out over time. Neither was anywhere near our top choice at weaning or yearling, but they have proven themselves under range conditions.
One was 1/2 brahman, 3/8 Hereford, 1/8 unknown. Her dam was a cow we planned to A.I., but the cow had other ideas and broke through an almost-new, 5-strand, 4-point fence into the neighbors pasture to a fullblood Brahman bull. She was born in the spring of 1986, calved at 24 months. Despite drought-shortened pasture she cycled back but the bull was sterile from the heat. We moved her to our fall herd, where she stayed 10 years and always calved in the first 2 weeks of the fall calving season, until the heat wave and drought in 1998. She cycled but the bull was sterile. Good reason to have your bulls checked before the breeding season, isn't it? My wife convinced me to move her back to spring calving rather than cull this now-12-year-old cow. In the drought of 2005 at age 19 1/2, she failed to breed back, had popcorn for teeth, arthritic shoulder and was beginning to lose weight, so was culled, but weighed 1055 and her 6 1/2 month old steer calf weighed 585 that same day. We kept 5 daughters, 8 granddaughters so far, and 4 great-granddaughters. All have been fertile, sound of leg and udder, and produce in the top half of the herd.
The other is 1/2 Limousin, 1/4 Simmental, 1/8 Hereford and 1/8 Brahman. She's about 1400 pounds, tall, raw-boned and lanky, looks like she'd be hard-doing. She'll be 14 years old next April, had her first calf at 24 months, and has backed up into February, the earliest I calve in spring. Her calves weigh 650-725 at weaning. She has only had one heifer, which is following in her mother's hoof prints at 5 years old.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

We live in Colorado. We bought a longhorn bred heifer who calved when she was 2. She died when she was 27 and never missed a year having a calf. She raised 24 calves with an average weight of 375 lbs. That's 9,000 lbs of calves! She was empty her 27th year. We put her down, but kept her beautiful horns as a memento of her great life.Although we raise beef cows, we will always have a deep love and respect for the longhorn breed!

Steve and Jennifer Edeker (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

I had a heifer calf that was born on 4/19/97 that got bred before being weaned and calved on 7/23/98 at the age of 15 months. I kept her and she had twins the following year on 5/20/99! She ended up having 13 calves over 12 years. She was a smaller cow but always raised one of my bigger calves each year.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2012

We have a cow that turned 10 last May. She calved at 23 months and has had a calf every year including twins every year for the last five years. She has raised every set and has weaned 14 calves. She weighs less than 1300 lbs. and her two steers from last year sold as fats at 17 months old weighing over 1400 lbs each. She is as gentle as they come and is bred to calve within the first 21 days of the calving season again this year.

C. (not verified)
on Dec 12, 2012

Ideal cow. 1200 to 1300 pounds, good temperament, raises a calf every year, stays in your pasture, Will go out and graze the pastures from turn-out to winter feeding time and stay in shape. My ideal cow in the families cow herd is a Shorthorn, Saler, Angus cross. She got bred at 5 month's of age and is now 18 years old. Has had a calf every year within the first 30 days of the calving season. She has never had a dink calf.
as for the variability of beef- some of it has to do with the breed, some with how the animals are fed and handled etc. However, the people eating the meat have as many different ideas on how they like it cooked and to taste. In the past I sold a lot of locker beef to local customers. Some wanted grain fed beef, some wanted grass fed beef and some could tell when I fed barley instead of corn. Each customer liked the flavor of the meat they expected to receive but were not fond of getting anything different. My point being, how do you take the variablility out of the beef trade when the end product users do not have 100 % agreeable tastes and desires.

gil (not verified)
on Dec 12, 2012

There is no ideal cow because this country is way to diverse. So we need to embrace diversity. Super cow might be super cow in your pasture but she may be dead in mine. All of us in the cattle business I am sure understand that. And we should be careful not to loose genetics that may not be popular today because they may be helpful tomorrow.

Shirley Betzner (not verified)
on Dec 13, 2012

We have a cow #46. Her mom was a charolais x Limo; named Babydoll. Each year, we would breed Babydoll to a Char bull from the unit. One year, we thought she had caught, but repeated at 6 weeks, and the red angus bull caught her. #46 was born. This was Babydolls first heifer calf after 8 calves... so we kept her. She was bred to an angus x limo bull, and her first calf was upside down, backwards and dead by the time we got it out. She was bred back in July and calved the next April 2010 , and had twin heifers. #186 and #187. I kept them both. In May 2011, she had twin heifers again, #10 and #11. I kept both of them, and they were bred this summer. Meanwhile, this spring, #187 calved... and had twin heifers. Suspecting that maybe #186 would do the same, we kept her inside when she was getting imminent. She went on to have a big bull calf. Both heifers raised all 3 calves together. It would have been a cool thing if #46 had another set of twins.. but she had a nice big heifer calf. (different sire to her 4 sisters). I will keep this heifer as well. All are very calm and nice cows to work around. I guess we will see what happens when #10 and #11 calve this coming spring 2013!

Sid Burt (not verified)
on Dec 13, 2012

We have a charlais/longhorn/holstein cross cow (long story) that is 14 years old. She weighs 1400 and you can rub her on the head. We call her "Baby" because she is the first one to the truck, tractor, or four wheeler anytime we go into the pasture. She had her first calf on Valentines day of 2000 and has had a calf every year since then between Jan. 31 and Feb. 17. Her calf is always the heaviest calf that we raise. Often, they top 650-700 at weaning. We have started keeping every heifer calf that she has! I only hope that they will be productive as she has been.

on Dec 15, 2012

I wish there were pictures of all these cows. All in a day's work for you folks, but I live in the city and I love pictures of cows, especially if they're your favorite cows.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the hard working people who feed us so well.

DSchubert (not verified)
on Dec 28, 2012

Moose will be 14 this year. After her mother prolapsed, my brother and I bottle fed her and began showing her at the county fair. She fits her name- weighing in at nearly 1600 pounds. I know this is a bit bigger than the ideal size, but she is worth her weight in gold. She has made our Christmas cards and the local newspaper in her younger days because she is docile enough to ride. She also is our life saver as we move bulls from one pasture to another and across a highway. Many of her daughters are repacements in our herd and steer calves have made it to the state fair show ring numerous times. She is one that will stay at our ranch until the end.

Jim Sturrock (not verified)
on Dec 28, 2012

Jake J,
If you forward your address I'll send a copy of my Conservation Stewardship Program 2012 report, which has photos.
jimsturrock11@ncolcomm.com

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 30, 2012

Being more of a sheep person where twins are born about half the time or more, it seems that selecting for twins is not getting the attention it should for more profit. The ideal cow, or sheep, varies with the situation.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 3, 2013

I have a 4 year old cow who gave birth to a live unassisted full term bull calf on November 2, 2012. 41 days later on December 13, 2012 she gave birth to another live unassisted full term bull calf. She abandon the first calf and only wants the second calf. What are the odds of such an event?

mkahla (not verified)
on Jan 3, 2013

One of our best cows was a Simbrah that produced at least one calf each year, twice she raised twins, for twelve years. Weaning weights for her calves, including each of the twins, were on average 700 pounds.

Generally speaking about "best cow," I think that she should have some percentage of Brahman in her blood line. I am thinking about the F-1, tiger striped female. She has earned the title, "Queen of Cow Country."

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