"- November, 1963
Everglades Station 11imeo Report EES64-10 November, 1963
Selecting Beef Cows fo Poductflh I
R. W. Kidder 1
For many years dairymen have been improving their herds and increasing the
milk production per cow through records kept by Dairy Herd Improvement Associa-
tions and their predecessor the Cow Testing Association. Milk production records
have been the basis for the great improvement in the capacity of dairy cows to
produce milk. These records have also been a major factor in the improvement made
through artificial insemination by applying such results to sire selection and
Producers of beef cattle have been searching for years for a similar means
of finding out which cows are their best producers and how much better they are
than the poorest producers in their herd. In a small herd the owner or operator
can know his individual animals and keep many records in mind without writing them
down. As the size of the herd increases, the need for written records increases.
What records should be kept, then becomes an important question. The next step is
to apply these records toward promoting herd improvement and thereby increasing
In the past, culling of cows and the selection of herd replacement has been
based mostly on visual appraisal. This is a sound practice and it has produced
the quality and type representing our breeds of cattle which are the foundation
of the industry. In the past, this appraisal has been guided largely by show ring
winnings. The present day trend is to supplement the best in breed type with
data on growth or weight for age, regularity of reproduction and growth of pro-
geny. This means that more and better records are a necessity.
One of the most spectacular trends in beef production in 1963, is the wide-
spread acceptance of performance testing. At the Toronto meeting of Performance
Registry International (PRI) in June, their report showed a 43% increase in mem-
bership and a 214% increase in participation in IBM analysis of herd records.
Fourteen beef breeds were represented by membership from 50 states, 6 provinces
of Canada and 6 foreign countries.
Everglades Experiment Station records indicate that cross-breeding offers
the best solution for commercial beef production in Florida. Other data indicates
that crossbreeding systems can be used effectively throughout the southern states.
This program is based on the use of purebred bulls. Studies now in progress will
supply information on how to use purebred sires to best advantage and will also
give additional data concerning the benefits from using production tested sires.
1/ Animal Husbandman, Everglades Experiment Station, Belle Glade, Florida.
Herd records are important to both purebred and commercial cattle operations.
Because of the greater individual animal valuation, more complete production
records would be in order for registered herds than for commercial beef opera-
tions. Breeders of purebred cattle are generally expected to maintain a high
standard of herd maintenance procedures since their aim is to produce the kind of
breeding stock the commercial cattlemen need. Pedigrees are important along with
conformation, size (as indicated by weight for age) and soundness, including breed
character, and herd health. More and more emphasis is being placed on the use of
production records for determining which animals to cull from the herd and which
to select as herd replacements. After a few years of records on a herd, the low
producing cows are readily selected for removal and the better cows are retained.
The first basis of culling is reproduction. Any beef cow which fails to produce
a calf each year should be eliminated from the herd immediately.
Pregnancy may be determined about 90 days after the end of the breeding
season. An open cow usually is fat at this time and there is no chance of income
from her for 2 years if kept. Many of the open cows removed from the herd are
intermittent or irregular breeders. Others may be affected with subclinical in-
fections which prevent conception. All first exposure heifers should also be
removed if not settled, as such heifers often remain irregular breeders when re-
Weaning weights and grades of all calves are adjusted to 205 day weights
and given a relative value which indicates the best and poorest calves by per-
centage, with 100 as the average for the herd. Calves with high relative values
are retained and those with low relative values culled. These records are
credited to each cow (and each bull in single sire herds), so that the ability of
each cow or bull to produce good calves shows dramatically. Such information is
not a normal part of a pedigree nor can it be determined by visual appraisal of
the cow. Cows which consistently produce calves with low relative values are
recognized and sold. These relative value records pertain strictly to the indi-
vidual herd and are of no value for comparing one herd with another.
A table is presented of actual records from the Everglades Experiment
Station herd to illustrate the production data on several pairs of cows. These
pairs of cows have been selected from the same herds in such a way that most of
their calves were sired by the same bull within each year. Cows in each compari-
son were maintained on similar levels of nutrition throughout their lifetime and
are about the same age and weight. In each case one individual of each pair has
an excellent record of performance as measured by the growth and quality of her
calves. The other cow shows a lack of ability to produce good calves and should
be eliminated from the herd.
The first pair are Angus cows, which weigh:approimately 1000 lbs., were
raised in the station herd. Their dams were half sisters and their sires were of
Eileenmere breeding. From visual appearance and pedigree they seem about equal
but their production record indicate one is a cull and the other a good producing
cow. It would appear that Cow 1321 "nicked" well with sire 110 in 1962. The word
"nicking" is a genetic term which means that the offspring of certain matings are
of a high order of excellence.
The second pair of cows are 6 years old and are foundation cows of Hereford-
Angus breeding. Here the poor producing cow is 60 lbs heavier than the other,
hence, might be selected from appearance and weight. Without a record of the
calves produced, it is quite probable that both of these cows would remain in the
herd as long as they produced calves regularly.
The third pair are Brahman cows. Pedigrees of these tows show choice breed-
ing for their breed. One is a granddaughter of the well known sire "Emperor" and
the other is half sister to a more recent sire which won the Florida State Fair
Championship 2 years in succession. Their production records, however, are quite
The fourth pair of cows are first cross Brahman-Herefords, 5 years old,
with production records on 3 calves each. These cows are about 100 Ibs different
in weight but approximately the same grade. The poorest calf from the heavier cow
No. 255 (No. 170 in 1963) had a relative value of 98. This is 2% under the herd
average. The best calf from the other cow (No, 259) was Calf No. 72 in 1962 with
a relative value of 93, or 7% below herd average.
The fifth pair of cows are Brahmans raised in the Everglades Station herd.
These cows have not produced regularly because they were in the control group in
the molasses feeding trial. Both are pregnant. Three of the 4 calves produced by
these two cows have good relative values. The older cow has only produced 2
calves in 4 years being open in 1962 and failing to raise her calf to weaning in
1961. Her calf in 1963 was very good.
The sixth pair of cows are Brahman-Herefords. They are 5 years old with
records of 3 calves each. In this pair the heavier cow has consistently produced
the best calves.
With records such as these based on the average of all calves in the herd
a large portion of the "guess-work" is removed when animals are culled each year.
And only by annual culling can herd production improvement be expected. As cows
with lower records are removed, the herd average is raised. Thus these relative
values pertain to each years record and are not comparable from one year to
Other factors are essential along with the records in the culling or selec-
tion of beef cattle. The importance of these factors will vary in different
operations. Some of these factors are as follows:
1. Conformation or breed type is determined by visual appraisal. Animals
having superior breed type and beef conformation should be preferred.
2. Size or weight for age results from use of scales for weight records.
Records show that larger cows usually will have the more growth and heavier
calves. This assumes that each cow is identified.
3. Cattlemen must avoid becoming too sentimentally attached to animals.
They must like their cattle collectively but accept the record when it indicates
the individual cows have completed their profitable tenure in the herd.
4. Identification of calves with their dams including date of birth is one
of the most difficult chores connected with progeny testing. In large herds this
involves many hours of labor.
5. Palpation for pregnancy makes possible the elimination of open cows in
the fall before the short pasture season. There is no chance for profit from an
open cow for two years. The number of replacement heifers needed to maintain herd
numbers can be determined prior to the breeding season.
6. Most of the procedures involved in herd production records assume that
breeding and calving are limited to a specific season. This makes possible one
operation of the weaning, weighing, grading and vaccinations of calves.
7. The use of I.B.M. methods or its equivalent in analyzing the data ob-
tained is important.
EES-64-10 400 copies
Table 1. Calf Records on 6 pairs of Cows to Illustrate High and Low Production.
Cow # 1094 age 8 years, Wt. 1035 lbs. Cow #1321 age 7 years, Wt. 925 lbs.
Year Calf No. 205 day wt. Rel. Val. Calf No. 205 day wt. Rel. Val.
1958 94 277 123
1959 51 306 107 64 237 77
1960 131 329 98 111 273 76
1961 156 344 142 16 257 81
1962 9 332 120 5 286 111
1963 86 297 95 177 255 81
Average 314 114 262 85
Angus X Hereford Cows
Cow #18 age 6 years, Wt. 1125 lbs. Cow # 41 age 6 years, wt. 1185 lbs.
1960 43 324 116 89 277 83
1961 62 331 108 40 279 91
1962 31 382 124 90 300 91
1963 155 375 111 Not Pregnant -
Average 353 115 285 88
Cow #1614 age 6 years, wt. 940 lbs. Cow #1611 age 6 years, wt. 1045 lbs.
1961 197 425 118 207 373 95
1962 235 441 112 172 364 92
1963 199 432 124 204 279 68
Average 433 118 339 85
Brahman x Hereford Cows
Cow #255 age 5 years, wt. 1130 lbs. Cow #259 age 5 years, wt. 910 Ibs.
1961 137 417 115 99 318 76
1962 238 501 121 149 386 93
1963 170 440 98 89 334 80
Average 453 111 346 83
Cow #141/8 age 5 years, wt 1160 If. Crw #1511/7 age 6 years, wt. 1045 lbs.
1960 132 308 81
1961 55 333 113 194 (died before weaning)
Not pregnant --
Not Pregnant -
Brahman x Hereford Cows
Cow #265/8 age 5 years, wt. 1060 lbs Cow #266/8 age 5 years, wt. 940 Ibs.
1961 107 428 110 72 318 72
1962 229 429 112 42 369 83
1963 167 439 110 79 328 82
Average 432 111 338 79