By Adriane Good, Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist, Moose Jaw
Efficiency in the cowherd can mean different things to different people; however, according to recent work done at the University of Saskatchewan by Justin Delver and his supervisor Dr. Greg Penner, an efficient cow is one that can “best utilize feed to be a productive and profitable cow by consistently maintaining her body condition, calving early in the calving season, and weaning heavy calves.”
In his research, over two years, Delver gathered data on rump fat thickness, calving date and weaning weight to determine which cows were the most efficient. These cows ended up being smaller framed cows that maintained their condition and weaned a heavy calf by eating the same amount as the larger cows.
From the results of his study, Delver developed a calculator to rank a herd of cows in order of efficiency by assigning points to different efficiency traits. According to Delver, the ranking system is valuable to producers by identifying efficient cows. “When producers are culling cows, especially during herd reductions, culling the least efficient cows offers a chance to improve herd productivity,” said Delver. He noted that in his study, the most efficient cows weaned calves that were over 40 pounds heavier than the less efficient cows. Assuming average calf prices from 2016-2020, he said that the most efficient cows produced $18.24 more per year than the less efficient cows.
Thanks to Delver’s work, producers now have access to a calculator to help them rank their herd, using at least two years of data on cow body condition score, cow weight, calving date, and calf weaning weight. Once downloaded, open the excel file and click ‘enable content’ in the banner along the top. Input your data into the spreadsheet and click the “Click Here to Calculate Efficiency Ranking” button. This will take you to a new sheet that has your cows ranked in order of efficiency. Once you have this list, you can make decisions based on the year over year comparisons of efficiency in the herd. If you would like to save the data that you put into the sheet, you can save the document and your data will remain in the document to include in next year’s data.
Using four data points to determine your most and least efficient cows could be a helpful tool to managing your cowherd. For more information about the calculator or any of the data points required, contact your local livestock and feed extension specialist or the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.