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Animal Health Notebook

Deconstructing North America's model cow

Deconstructing North America's model cow
Are the cows the industry is targeting as the best really earning their keep?

Mark Schatzker the author of the ‘Steak’ book recently sent me a copy of his new brain child “The Dorito Effect”. Schatzker chronicles and gives a sobering account of tasteless food in America and the industrial food complex’s successful discovery and manufacture of more than 2200 flavoring compounds to hide the meeker relationship of nutritional value and flavor. How Schatzker manages to make science so much fun to read is brilliant.

Foods’ "untouched" flavor is tremendously important to health. We are what we eat and we now routinely have our taste buds tricked with chemical components that make our food smell and taste of something it is not, nutrient dense. Thank you Mark.

Just what kind of cow is going to get you the best results? (Image: ottoflick/Thinkstock)

If you are serious about the beef business I also recommend “Steak, One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef” by Schatzker. I’ll guarantee you fun and good times that will leave you excited about our production possibilities out on the pasture.

Related: Are you in a heifer buyer's market?

Since times got better after we left the 80’s and thousands of farmers and cattlemen had fallen out of the business, the North American cow got bigger, blacker and more closely resembling a milk wagon. A bunch of people are seemingly tickled with the result. I’ve noticed that most of them live out of our business not in the midst. A university department head commented to me a few years ago that longevity was no longer important since with the advent of sexed semen and the stacking of EPD’s each new generation’s greater production would push the previous generation to the cull wagon. Walt Davis makes the comment in his book “How Not to Go Broke Ranching” that being stupid is not illegal but preaching and teaching stupidity should be against the law.

High production animals and North America’s model cow were derived and are the result of flaws in record keeping, physical traits, judging errors, cheap inputs that are no longer around, and in some cases, blindness. Health crises have often resulted from such programing.

The productive life of the mamas that now stock most of these continents’ pastures is 3.2 weaned calves or a little over 130% of her body weight before ending her career with a new owner or as a “Big Mac”. She has weaned 40% of her body weight in steers and heifers 3.2 times totaling a lifetime production of 1920 lbs. of saleable product. With a $1.50/lb. market (this might be high) this grosses $2880.00. I hear and see universities give figures of $900 to develop a heifer past weaning into the first 6 or 7 months of pregnancy. Weaned heifer calves were bringing well over $1200 a few months ago. I also see figures of $900 to $1200 annually to carry this model cow for a year.

Does this mean that a model 1500 lb. cow in America culled at $0.80 ($1200) plus $2880.00 in gross calf sales has taken in $4080.00 at a cost of $5100.00?

Related: Reviewing a few basics might help

I have also heard it said that owning a boat for recreational hobby purposes stands for ‘bust out another thousand’ on a regular basis. A boat doesn’t cost l lot of money to own when it is sitting in your side shed if you own both outright (no payments) and you don’t consider or figure the lost opportunity costs of the investment. There are clean ups, repairs, batteries, maintenance and like cows, boats are depreciating at a rapid pace when they get past 5 years of age. But the cow ‘hobby’ may be more expensive. I do not know anyone who owns five hundred boats.

Small cows (800 lbs. is my favorite) that calve every 12 months and raise their calf will routinely wean a 480 lb. calf in our country. On grass it costs us a little less than $250.00 to develop a heifer and about the same to keep a cow and her calf for a year. At culling time right now she will bring about $0.70/lb. ($600) at 15 years of age. We will have sold $9360.00 or more in offspring from about 3 acres annually. We figure our profits on net per acre basis.

I am not capable of making a winning defense of the North American present day cow model but think I’ll continue to stay around with the little grass burners that keep me in business. Think about it.

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