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Cow-Calf Operations

Cow-Calf Operations

A cow-calf operation is a method of raising beef cattle in which a herd of cows is taken care of by a rancher to produce calves for later sale. Cow-calf operations are the foundation of the beef industry in the United States and some other countries.


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Reba Gonzalez

Reba Gonzalez

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Curated Facts

Branding is one of the oldest and best ways to permanently identify livestock. It serves as an excellent safeguard against livestock theft, loss or dispute. In fact, the International Livestock Identification Association considers livestock brands to be as important as return addresses on mail.

Article: Livestock Branding
Source: Missouri Agriculture Anim...

Investment in real estate, machinery and equipment, and in breeding stock was positively related to per-unit costs... The coefficient sign on the three investment variables... suggest that, as investments increase, cost per unit also increased.

Article:   Factors Affecting Beef Co…
Source:  Offline Book/Journal

Both herd size and its squared term indicated cost per unit declined at a decreasing rate as herd size increased. Herd size was not significant in the production model. Thus, herd size can positively affect production costs but may not improve productivity per se.

Article:   Factors Affecting Beef Co…
Source:  Offline Book/Journal

Frischknecht and Harris (1968) emphasized that delaying the start of grazing in the spring contributes toward maximum basal area and yields of grass, and that shortening the grazing season at the end of the spring growing season contributes toward maximum plant numbers... Every farm or ranch with grazing lands has some system involving removal of pasturage. Some systems are highly intensified, others
are very simple. Glasslands are found in all stages of productivity or condition classes and can be utilized with many different management systems. Any one of the basic grassland types frequently represents the total pasture on a farm...

Article:   Symposium on Pasture Meth…
Source:  Offline Book/Journal

When producers are ready to formulate mineral supplementations, Wright lays out three basic formulation requirements.
1. Determine the animal’s requirements. Generally, this is done best by consulting with an Extension staff or a nutritionist.
2. Determine the mineral concentration of the animal’s primary sources of minerals by testing forages, supplements, feed ingredients, and water.
3. Refrain from using book values. Wright discourages producers from using book values to formulate a mineral supplementation because they consist of averages from around the nation and may not reflect the variability found locally.

Article: Consider mineral suppleme...
Source: Cattle Business Weekly

“We’re finding that some cattle respond better than others. Vaccine response is a polygenic trait, which means it’s controlled by a number of different genes. We now have evidence it’s a heritable trait, and are trying to find out how or what genes are involved in determining the animal’s individual vaccine response – whether it’s a high response, average, or low to non-response,” Gonda says.

Article: Seeking Genetic Answers T...
Source: BEEF Magazine

Effective programs integrate medicine and management to prevent disease. Three major factors should be considered in attempting to keep disease losses to a minimum:

-Prevent Exposure to Disease. Purchase and quarantine procedures should be employed to decrease the likelihood of disease introduction into the existing herd.

-Keep Disease Resistance High. Nutrition, management, and housing programs should be designed to keep resistance to disease high at all times. Preventing or minimizing animal stress is a necessity for maintaining good resistance.

-If Disease Occurs, Prevent its Spread. Segregate affected animals immediately. Have a diagnosis made, and take recommended action as soon as possible.

Article: Beef Cow/Calf Herd Health...
Source: Virginia Cooperative Exte...

In the commercial cow-calf feeder system, animals are sold at weaning, shortly thereafter, or when they are a year old (i.e., yearlings). Because profit is related to fluctuating forage supplies and cattle prices, beef cow systems may be modified. Although lightweight calves may be sold following weaning, if forage is available, they
may be carried longer and into a stocker phase. Operators can sell calves at lighter weights to stocker or feedlot operators who graze them briefly on pasture and crop residue before placing them in feedlots. Other operators carry calves to the yearling stage, expecting weight gains and possible price increases.

Article: Characteristics and Produ...
Source: USDA Economic Research Se...

Cow-calf operators in the West and Southern Plains have significant cost advantages over operators in other regions because, with a longer grazing season, their herds require less supplemental forage during the winter. The larger acreage size of operations in the West and Southern Plains also can support more cows and take advantage of economies of scale (spreading the fixed investment over more units of production). Because of the harsher climate, operations in the North Central region and Northern Plains spend significantly more to maintain their herds. Cowherds in the Southeast are primarily on small and part-time operations.

Article: Characteristics and Produ...
Source: USDA Economic Research Se...

ranch  (rɑːntʃ)
 — n
1. a large tract of land, esp one in North America, together with the necessary personnel, buildings, and equipment, for rearing livestock, esp cattle
2. a. any large farm for the rearing of a particular kind of livestock or crop: a mink ranch
  b. the buildings, land, etc, connected with it
— vb
3. ( intr ) to manage or run a ranch
4. ( tr ) to raise (animals) on or as if on a ranch

Article: Ranch
Source: Define Ranch at Dictionar...