SJ. E. PACE
University of Florida
Agricultural Extension Service
Selecting Commercial Herd
J. E. Pace
Extension Animal Husbandman
Although not all ranchers follow the system,
Florida is known as a state that produces large
numbers of slaughter calves. Unfortunately, un-
der this system of production, quite frequently
a great number of the better heifer calves are
sold for slaughter because they are fat and weigh
heavily. This is not conducive to rapid herd
improvement. Better heifer calves should be
retained as herd replacements.
The nature of farming is changing greatly.
Factors such as high land values, increased taxes
and high production costs have made it nec-
essary for ranchers to pay more attention to
efficient production and improved business man-
agement. Today many ranches use seepage
irrigation, and better fertilization and cultural
practices than they did five years ago. Selecting
better replacement heifers within a herd con-
tributes greatly to production efficiency.
A high reproduction rate is most important in
any cow herd. All ranchers should strive for a
calf crop of 80 percent or above. At present,
reproductive efficiency in Florida beef cattle
herds is low; in fact, the state has the lowest
calf crop .percentage of any state. During the
last five years the average calf crop in Florida
was 67 percent as compared with the national
average of 86 percent.
Assuming a high reproduction rate, approxi-
mately 40 percent of the heifer calves in a herd
must be saved for replacements. But, if the calf
crop percentage is low, a correspondingly larger
percentage of the heifers must be saved.
The three factors largely responsible for poor
reproduction in Florida beef cattle herds are
ancestry, nutrition and selection.
Ancestry.-Most commercial herds have origi-
nated from native cattle that were kept on open
ranges. Many cows that reproduced every year
died because of a lack of adequate feed-espe-
cially during the winter months. Those cows
that reproduced every other year had a better
chance to survive.
Nutrition.-Even though most Florida beef
herds have been up-graded by the use of better
bulls, and are now being better managed, poor
nutrition--especially during the winter months
-is one of the principal factors adversely affect-
Cows kept on a low level of nutrition usually
have a long interval between calving and the
appearance of heat. If heat does occur, the con-
ception rate is usually low.
Selection.-Some ranchers fail to apply ade-
quate selection pressure to prospective herd re-
placements at weaning and after weaning. On
some ranches the best heifers are sold and the
culls kept for replacements.
Herd replacements should be selected from
those cows that have a good reproduction his-
tory, namely those cows that bring a good high
quality heavy calf every year.
Select Replacements From
The breeding season in Florida should be from
60 to 100 days. Those cows that do not conceive
in this period should be sold. Insofar as possible
select replacements from heifer calves dropped
early in the calving season.
Select From Heavy, High Grade Heifers
Cows that are good milkers always wean the
heaviest calves. Just as weight contributes ma-
terially to market value, weight at weaning time
should be one of the main criteria for selecting
The grade of heifer calves at weaning time
is important because calves intended for both
slaughter and feeder purposes are sold by grade.
A difference of a full grade between calves at
marketing time often means a difference of $2.00
to $4.00 per hundred weight in price. Therefore,
both weight and grade, commensurate with de-
sirable type, should be used when selecting herd
An individual record should be kept on each
cow in the herd. County Agents can supply
cattlemen with an outline of an appropriate rec-
Adequate records, properly kept, often serve
as a rude awakener to the cattleman and are
most revealing. They can show the following:
W Calf crop percentage
w Weights of calves
w Grade and quality of calves
w Cow performance
Sire differences in single sire herds.
To keep complete records the cattleman must
have a weighing scale.
Cull Replacements Three Times
Post-weaning information is important in se-
lecting herd replacements. Heifers should be
weighed and graded at approximately one year
of age. Heifers that have failed to develop as
they should, or that show signs of unthriftiness
should be culled and sold.
Herd replacements also should be weighed and
graded at the time they are placed in the breed-
ing herd. Average daily gain from the time of
weaning, and the weight per day of age from
birth should be calculated. The poorer heifers
should be culled at this time.
At weaning time, information on first-calf cows
should be closely scrutinized. The first calf pro-
duced by a cow is a very good index of her future
usefulness in the herd. Cows that wean poor,
slow gaining calves should not be given a second
Select Uniform Replacements
Uniformity has definite market value, so, se-
lect replacement heifers that are uniform in
grade, type, weight, fleshing qualities and color.
Do not keep heifers that are overly refined and
light boned. Select those that show length and
depth of body, and thickness. Avoid heifers that
are extremely compact, even though they might
grade high at weaning time.
Select For Longevity
Longevity or period of usefulness is important
in any cow herd. Select replacements from cows
that have reproduced regularly for a period of
years. Cows that meet this qualification may be
thin and lack show standard excellence, but this
can be attributed to their frequency of calving.
They lack time between calving periods to lay
on excess fat.
Do Not Purchase Replacements
Why buy another rancher's cull heifers? Little,
if any progress can be expected from purchased
replacements. In Florida, cattle moved from one
ranch to another require an adjustment period.
The culling rate of purchased replacements is
much higher than for heifers produced on the
ranch. There is also the possibility of bringing dis-
eases or parasites with purchased replacements.
Let the man who has excess heifers send them
where they should go-to slaughter. Raise your
When In Doubt
When a scale is not available to assist in se-
lecting replacements at weaning time, select the
largest, growthiest and fattest heifer in the herd.
These traits indicate that the heifers are out of
cows that calve early and are good milkers. Do
not select late calves for replacements.
"If he hadn't used those scales, I might have been
added to the herd."
If a short breeding season has been used, an-
other alternative is to divide the heifer calves
into four groups at weaning. They should be
divided into a superior group, above average
group, average group and below average group.
All late calves, regardless of grade, should be
placed in the below average group. Select re-
placement heifers from the superior and above
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN
AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 36, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
Florida State University and
United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director