Breeding your cattle herd is a critical management decision. There are differing philosophies on this topic. Given the timely nature of the subject, let’s explore two opinions. One comes from R.P. Cooke of Beef Producer and the other is from Beef Magazine’s Burke Teichert. The common thread between both assessments is their end goal, sustained profitability for the farm operation.
Terminal or Maternal Mating
Teichert’s piece is titled, “Terminal or Maternal: Which Should I Choose?”. Teichert’s key message is that too many ranchers don’t choose but rather attempt to get the best of both systems. Additionally, he concludes that a terminal system is the better choice when selecting for profitability. Teichert states:
It is my (stronger than ever) opinion that most of the small ranches in the U.S. should be buying replacement cows, mating them to “high growth, high carcass” bulls and selling the entire calf crop—both steers and heifers—every year. If you sell open and dry cows and replace them with bred cows, you will easily be more profitable than by producing your own replacement heifers.
He offers examples of both large and small operations using terminal mating successfully. Meanwhile he is much less in favor of maternal matings except in well detailed situations.
On the other hand, herds using maternal matings to make good mother cows cannot be as profitable as terminal mating herds unless they are able to sell bred cows at a nice premium over cull cow price. If you are going to raise your own replacements and not sell a good number of bred cows, you will not be as profitable as you would in a strictly terminal mating situation.
Both Won’t Work
He goes on to explain why he believes trying to get the best of both of these systems leads to a sub-optimal outcome.
It appears to me that too many in our industry are trying to straddle the fence and combine both terminal and maternal in the same herd. It doesn’t work. Because of the available and most popular EPDs, you end up selecting for too much growth and carcass quality and lose cow efficiency.
His article does a terrific job citing other related pieces on this topic. You can find the full article and links to the additional material at beefmagazine.com.
R.P. Cooke of Beef Producer has written a piece titled, “The Unorthodox Discipline of Building a Cow Herd”. Cooke’s contention this is piece is that nature does a better job than humans of picking successful and profitable replacement animals. Thus, profit minded ranchers should opt for a breeding program seeks genetic makeup well suited for the local environment.
… I have written about choosing replacement heifers and bulls by utilizing what nature has taught us. These animals need to be home grown and hopefully have the genetics and epigenetics that fit and work in our environment. I tend to want to close the herd from outside influence as soon as we locate animals that work. This might take a while but I never foresee moving far away from this principle.
Cooke argues the typical mistake is made by not recognizing our own shortcomings in picking replacements over nature. Essentially, let nature offer insights.
I believe that many of us producers and consultants are bound too tightly in pride to actually realize that we cannot pick replacements to the degree that nature can choose them.
It was brought up to think that selecting cattle on environment and physical characteristics alone would create deficiencies in economic value traits. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. The same is true for selecting for feeding efficiency (feedyard gains).
Cooke wisely encourages the operator to imagine the inventory he would like to sell at sale time. Working backwards from this point all the way back to breeding is important to maximize the profitability of the farm.
Make up your mind about what you would like to have to offer when it comes sale time. I bet that it will be yearlings 14 to 18 months old and weighing close to 800 pounds.
It might likely require some discipline, but when we stay close to home and produce and market yearlings, the profitability per acre moves upward.
Cattle Breeding For Profit Summary
Cooke and Teichert offer farmers their thoughts on how to breed cattle herds for maximum profit. Teichert argues that terminal breeding is best for most farmers. Cooke strongly believes relying on those animals that have thrived in the local environment is best for profitability.
Image Courtesy progressivegenetics.ie