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You know, stuff like that!

I once knew an Extension livestock field specialist from the neighboring state of Missouri. She was relating to me a conversation she had with one of the commercial cow-calf producers in the area she served.

He said, “I’ve never tagged my cows.  I’m thinking about tagging them. What do you think about that?

She: “If you’re just going to tag the cows, I wouldn’t bother.”

Here was her point: Just putting a tag in a cow doesn’t do you any good at all….other than if one or two or the whole group escapes the confines of a pasture, you might be able to convince somebody else that they are actually yours!

So what, if your cows have an ear tag with a unique number? What good does it do? No good at all, unless you plan to record that number in a notebook or computer to track performance; how long she’s been in the herd; how much her calves weigh at birth and weaning; how they graded when they went to the feedlot and packing plant; how many years in a row she had a calf; the sex of that calf; what’s she’s been vaccinated with and when; when was she last de-wormed; how many times has she tried to kill somebody when weighing her calf; you know, stuff like that. IMPORTANT stuff like that!

Her answer to this producer might have been a little flippant, but if you’re going to individually identify an animal, then you need to use that identity to keep records.

OK, so we’re recording information now. What do you do with that information? Do you base culling decisions on it? Do you make genetic selection based on it? Does it help you determine that you need to make changes in the bulls and/or semen from stud services next year? Will it help you decide which heifers to keep back as replacements?

So now, we’re weighing calves at birth and at weaning. What do you do with that data? Two cows, same age, bred to the same bull, each have a bull calf that weighs 75 to 80 lb. Yet, one cow weans off a 575-lb. calf and the other weans off a 650-lb. calf. Difference in cow genetics? Difference in milking ability? Did one calf get sick and the other remained healthy? Were both cows de-wormed? Did one get pinkeye in the middle of the summer grazing season? You know, stuff like that!

Or, did the calf from cow #1207 raise a calf that gained 3.75 lb. per day and grade CAB and earn $50 per head in premiums over the cash market and the calf from cow #1213 gain 2.9 and grade low Select? You know, stuff like that!

Until next time,


Ride along with the Certified Angus Beef supply development team as we work to help cattlemen put more black ink in their record books with cattle management news, tips and ideas to profitably improve quality. CAB is a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Angus Association. It was founded in 1978 as the first fresh beef brand based on specifications, and remains the largest in the world. We spend every day working with cattlemen and women across the country to help them better supply the CAB brand with high-quality beef. Join us for a view from many a pickups' passenger seat.
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