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Instill Family Values in Cows

Author: Kristy

By Cheramie Viator
Beef Today

We often talk about the family values we hope to instill in the next generation. When applied to people, it’s about teaching our kids respect, integrity, love and honor.

Have you ever stopped to think about instilling family values in your cowherd? We could call traits such as fertility, longevity, temperament, accountability, soundness and fleshing ability the family values of our cowherd.

All of these traits are subject to your operation’s goals and benchmarks, but they can be measured and selected for. For example, I work with several large commercial cow-calf operations that are beginning to designate their replacement female candidates while the calf is still nursing the cow. This gives us the opportunity to see the performance of the dam relative to her calf, evaluate traits such as temperament, fleshing ability, udder quality, etc., and make decisions accordingly. All too often, we wean heifer calves and then make our replacement decisions from an entire group of heifers without any dam history or their dams standing nearby.

Some of you are in the midst of fall calving, and many are preparing for winter and the 2015 spring calving season. Why should we be talking about replacement females right now? To me, replacement female selection is a year-round process. By noting both the mothering ability and udder quality of a cow as she raises a calf and her fleshing ability and capacity to breed back, we can use these traits as our selection tools.

Just like we see in our own families, values in our cowherds can be generational. If a cow is hard fleshing, poor milking or doesn’t breed back early in the season, chances are her daughter has the potential to carry the same traits forward.

From a profit standpoint, why are family values important? Anytime we can build consistency and select for females that calve in the first half of our calving season, we are adding pounds, fertility and uniformity to a calf crop.

Recently, I spent time with the Vorthmann family in Treynor, Iowa. It was easy to see their family values are evident in both their adult children and their cowherd. Roger and Ann’s adult children are all intelligent, respected, hard working and of high moral character. No, they didn’t instill these traits through selection pressure! Instead, they knew the personal characteristics they wanted their children to have. Over many years, they successfully instilled them through reinforcement and positive parenting—the same concept as
selection pressure in your cowherd.

After seeing the Vorthmann’s cowherd, I quickly decided they used the same family value concept in their cowherd. All of their cows are held accountable to have a calf every year, do so with an easy temperament, are sound footed and have the ability to breed back within a specified time frame. This might sound simplistic, but it takes years of discipline and commitment to quality to get to the consistency I saw in the Vorthmann cowherd. They are a testament that “it can be done.”

Today, many of us are rebuilding our herds and have an opportunity to instill the right family values from the beginning. My challenge to you is to utilize the family values concept as you work to build the future foundation of your cowherd.

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