Weaning weight versus reproductive efficiency

Mark Z. Johnson, Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Cattle Breeding Specialist

December 11, 2023

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Economic analysis of cow-calf operations shows a strong relationship between profitability and both percent calf crop weaned per exposed female and pounds weaned per exposed female. This “economic analysis” discussion often leads to a debate of what has more value to the profit potential of a commercial cow-calf operation that sells calves at weaning. Is it reproductive efficiency in the form of a higher percent calf crop weaned? Or is it the weaning weight of the calves? Let’s look at the value of an extra 50 pounds of weaning weight versus an extra 5% calf crop weaned per exposed female relative to current market values. We frame the debate as follows:

Herd A

200 cow operation

Average mature weight = 1,300 pounds

90% calf crop weaned, resulting in 180 calves (90 steers and 90 heifers at an average of 525 pounds). Herd A is averaging 472.5 pounds of weaning weight per exposed female.

Herd B

200 cow operation

Average mature weight = 1,300 pounds

85% calf crop weaned, resulting in 170 calves (85 steers and 85 heifers at an average of 575 pounds). Herd B is averaging 488.8 pounds of weaning weight per exposed female.

Herd A’s calves

– 525 pound steer calves are worth $294/cwt, or approximately $1,544 per head.

– 525 pound heifer calves are worth $243/cwt, or approximately $1,276 per head.

– 90 steers x $1,544 = $138,960

– 90 heifers x $1,276 = $114,840

For a total gross value of $253,800

Herd B’s calves

– 575 pound steer calves are worth $273/cwt, or approximately $1,570 per head.

– 575 pound heifer calves are worth $235/cwt, or approximately $1,351 per head.

– 85 steers x $1,570 = $133,450

– 85 heifers x $1,351 = $114,835

For a total gross value of $248,285

The bottomline

Under current market conditions, Herd A’s advantage of 5% more calf crop weaned results in $5,515 in extra revenue over Herd B’s 50 pound advantage in actual weaning weight. reproductive efficiency (in the form of a higher percent calf crop weaned) is a very economically important trait in a cow-calf operation.

References:

Chapter 4, OSU Beef Cattle Manual, Eighth Edition, E-913

USDA AMS Livestock, Poultry & Grain Market News. OK Dept. of Ag Market News

Dr. Mark Johnson, OSU Extension beef cattle breeding specialist, explains the importance of reproductive efficiency on SunUp TV’s Cow-Calf Corner from Oct. 27, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlctfVpXhd4&t=59s

Southern Livestock

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