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So you want to make them bigger! Or, do you want to add some milk to your cow herd? Improvements in these and other traits offer opportunities to increase production through higher weaning weights. However, the increased outputs are accompanied by increased feed and management inputs. Available research indicates that the increased production may or may not outweigh the increased inputs. Mature cow size and level of milk production are typically the factors considered when changes in cattle type are discussed. Numerous research studies have been conducted to evaluate the effects of these factors on biological and economic efficiency. In these studies, biological efficiency varied widely as conditions changed from study to study. The bottom line was that no one type, breed or kind worked best under all conditions. In fact, when biological efficiency was measured as the total energy required by a cow and calf to produce a pound of edible beef, there were virtually no significant differences noted among the breeds or types. Economic efficiency has varied according to the resources available. When an abundant supply of high quality feed is available, the larger, heavier milking cow has generally been more profitable. However, when the feed supply is restricted below the level needed to maintain high reproductive rates in these larger, high producing cattle, the smaller cow with somewhat lower milking ability generally becomes the more economically efficient.

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South Dakota State University


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