What is in this article?:
- Like shopping for a pickup, selecting heifers depends on your vision, resources and how you plan to use them.
- Most ranchers have certain criteria for selecting replacement heifers. Here’s a rundown of what some producers seek in selecting replacements.
RJ Hoffman most emphasizes maternal traits when buying bulls. He wants bulls that sire good cows, and contends they make more money than steers in the long run. After all, cows are the future of his herd.
“I can sell good, functional females anytime. I select bulls on maternal/replacement-heifer qualities, and always use low-birthweight Angus bulls. I turn out yearling bulls with yearling heifers and keep those same bulls with them as they grow. That set of heifers will be with the same bulls for 2-3 years.”
RJ Hoffman has few calving problems among his heifers (less than 5%), which he attributes to his use of low-birthweight bulls on all his cows.
“I select bulls with low birthweight and high yearling weight. I don’t care much about weaning weight. There are some with low birthweight and high growth; you just have to find them. The trick is finding new ones for the next set of heifers,” RJ says.
Goddard says he selects bulls moderate in all traits. “We stay in the middle. It’s a way to produce good heifers and steers from the same bulls,” he says.
Roy Hoffman seeks bulls that sire good daughters. He looks at EPDs for milk, weaning indexes, birthweight, etc., and prefers moderate birthweight – about 75-82 lbs.
“When selecting for maternal traits, make sure you don’t get animals that are too fine-boned. You don’t want them coarse, but you also don’t want them too fine,” Roy says.
Edwards tries to select bulls that sire the type of heifers he wants. “Some traits people select for are just the opposite of other traits they want. If you focus on feed efficiency, you probably won’t get the highest growth or milk production. A cow that milks well generally eats a lot. Some bulls provide everything fairly well, without extremes,” he says.
Edwards has raised his own bulls for 25 years, often AI-sired from his best cows. “I usually have 6-8 brothers I keep every year. With this process, the daughters and the herd become more uniform. They’re almost like embryo transplant calves. That’s another reason I can pick my replacement heifers and they all look the same. It makes heifer selection easier,” he says.
Udders and milk
Roy Hoffman selects heifers from cows with good udders, and bulls that produce them. Even if a cow milks well, bad udder conformation can prevent her newborn from nursing. Most of his cows have good udders now, after many years of selection.
Edwards uses bulls with medium milk EPDs. He feels the result of high milk production is cows that can’t rebreed in a range environment.
Goddard tries to work the middle on milk, as well as weaning weights, etc. He agrees with Edwards that, if one selects for high milk, cows won’t breed back as readily, requiring too much energy.
“We try to stay above average, but not extreme. Moderate traits get you further because your cows last longer and are more efficient than some of the high-performance cattle.”