J. E. Pace
University of Florida
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
Questions and Answers
on Production Testing
By J. E. Pace
What is Production Testing?
Production Testing is measurement-under
uniform conditions-of the productive ability of
a group of cows within the same herd. Since con-
ditions on any given ranch are relatively uniform,
there is no better place to carry on such a pro-
The Production Testing Program in Florida
is not a competitive program between ranches.
It is designed to reveal to an individual cattleman
the actual production of each cow in his herd.
Conditions are so varied between ranches that a
comparison of this type would be meaningless and
Why Production Test?
The principal reason for a rancher to partici-
pate in a program of this kind would be to increase
profits. Also important is that Production Testing
enables a rancher to avoid the mediocrity in his
herd which usually results from "eyeball calibra-
tion" (on the basis of appearances only) in select-
ing replacement heifers.
Other advantages of Production Testing in-
e Superior producing cows are easily identi-
Best heifer calves can be selected for re-
More uniformity of weaning weights,
and ability of calves to grade
e Fads and fancies are eliminated
Production of each cow is evaluated on a
dollar and cents basis
The danger of pitfalls such as dwarfism
What Can be Determined by Production
Weaning weight of calves.-Cattle are usually
sold by the pound. The total number of pounds
marketed from a ranch is the most important
factor in determining profits. Production Testing
will identify and help a rancher eliminate from
his herd the producers of lightweight, poor-doing
Grade and quality of calves.-Cattle are sold
according to grade-whether they are intended
for slaughter or feeder purposes. The grade of
calves at marketing time is the second most im-
portant factor in determining profits.
Quality in a group of cattle contributes to
uniformity, and uniformity definitely has mar-
Calf crop percentage.-Producing a high per-
centage calf crop is one of the principal problems
faced by Florida ranchers. Ranches that have a
high calf crop percentage usually market the
heaviest and highest-grading calves. Properly
kept records will identify the "free boarder".
Cow preformance.-It is easy to identify the
few very top producing cows in any herd-es-
pecially where considerable variation exists in
the herd; however, the difference in ability of
cows to produce in so-called uniform herds is as-
By keeping records the production of each cow
in the herd is instantly available. Records reveal
immediately whether or not a cow is returning
Bull performance.-This information is much
easier to secure in purebred herds; however, some
commercial producers maintain single sire herds.
Although the cow, due to the influence of milk
production, has the greatest influence on wean-
ing weight and grade of calves, the sire also has
Purebred breeders can perform a valuable serv-
ice to commercial producers by making this infor-
mation available. One improperly selected bull
can undo the work of a number of years spent
selecting for milk production in the cow herd.
What Must the Breeder Do?
Identify each cow in the herd.-Each cow in
the herd must have a separate identity (number)
and this can be with a hide brand, horn brand,
neck chains, ear tag, or by ear notching.
In addition to one of the above methods of
identification, heifers kept for replacements
should be tattooed.
In commercial herds the hide brand works
best. Regardless of the method used to identify
cows, the last digit of the year in which the cow
was born should be branded on the animal.
If the individual number of the cow is branded
on the hip, the following procedure is recom-
1 number of animal
2 -year of birth
Methods of identifying cattle.
If the animal is branded on the side, the first
digit of the number should represent the year in
which the animal was born. As an example, if
an animal is branded "230" this would indicate
that it was born in 1962 and it's individual num-
ber is 30.
Ear tags usually should serve only as a tem-
porary means of identification, but they are gen-
erally the best method of identifying calves. Some
large plastic ear tags work satisfactorily as a
means of cow identification.
Identify calves at birth.-Calves should be
identified at birth or shortly thereafter by means
100 4 -00
Ear notching method of identification.
of an ear tag, ear notches or by tattooing. Calves
colored other than black can be temporarily iden-
tified by using a special branding ink.
Use a Calving Record book.-A record book
should be used to record birth information on
calves. The record should show cow number, calf
number, and birthdate, sex, and breeding of calf.
This information later can be transferred to the
individual cow record sheet.
Do not try to keep calving records by memory.
This is like running a steer in the breeding herd.
Keep a Cow Record.-An individual record
should be kept on each cow in the herd. Properly
kept, each record will reveal at a glance the pro-
ductive ability of the cow. Cows tend to repeat
their performance year after year. Poor produc-
ing first or second calf cows can be quickly elim-
inated from the herd.
Scales required for weighing calves at wean-
ing time.-Production testing entails very little
extra work on the part of a cattleman.
At weaning time each calf is weighed and,
if desired by the breeder, graded. This should
be done when a majority of the calves are between
the ages of six and eight months. The cattle-
man should contact his county agent at least a
month before he wishes to have his calves weighed
r L '. t
My county agent told me that you make loans to
ranchers who keep good records.
How is Testing Information Figured
The information on each herd is tabulated
by electronic computers at the University of Flor-
ida. Information is returned to the rancher in
a number of ways, but it is always figured on an
individual cow basis.
Information may be returned to the breeder
according to calf number
according to cow number
according to index or relative value
according to sire (when sires are known)
according to pasture (when requested).
How Does A Cattleman Participate
in the Program?
If you are interested in Production Test-
ing contact your county agent. He will
be glad to explain the program in de-
tail. All Production Testing work is han-
dled through the office of the local coun-
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK
IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Anzt of Mar 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, Univenity of Florida,
Florida State University
and United Stales Department at Agrlculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins. Director