Matching cows to your environment

You can have the best genetics and gee-whiz technology in your cattle herd, but the basics still apply. The environment you provide has to match the animal for it to succeed.

David Lalman is an animal science professor at Oklahoma State University. He says the environment is everything the cow needs to interact with in order to thrive and be productive.

"In that pretty long list we’d include things like climate, temperature and humidity. Sun and access to shade or lack of access, mud, ice, snow and whether or not they have access to shelter or a windbreak," says Lalman. "Another big one is parasites, internal and external, disease challenges in general."

 How do you know if a cow is a good match? Longevity and productivity. She should be able to produce a calf every year for about 12 years. Animals that are a good match are also problem-free and require little additional supplemental feed beyond the well-managed grazing system. A cow that proves she can thrive in the toughest conditions in your environment is a good match for you.

He says another gauge is inputs into the system.

"Is it a low input management system, moderate input where you expend some time, effort and dollars to remove the impediments that we’ve listed here already? Or, is it a high input environment where there’s quite a bit of effort and expense to remove those impediments?" he says.

A good record keeping system will help you identify the animal traits you’re looking for.