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On the surface, the topic of cow efficiency may seem to be primarily of importance to commercial cow-calf producers. The topic is also of importance to seedstock producers, because the primary purpose of the seedstock industry is to provide genetic resources for the commercial industry. It is critical that seedstock producers develop a good understanding of the challenges faced by commercial producers in order to provide the best possible services. Feed costs for the cow herd represent the single largest expense in producing retail beef. The proportion of total energy utilized in beef production that is required to support the breeding herd is larger for cattle than for most other meat species, because of a relatively low reproductive rate. Fortunately, much of the energy for the breeding herd can be supplied through feedstuffs that are readily grown in areas not well suited for tillable crop production, and can be harvested economically by the cow herself. While relatively cheap, such feedstuffs are not free. Furthermore, supplemental feeding is needed at times to sustain the cow herd year-round. An important objective for the commercial producer, then, would seem to be to limit feed costs. However, attempts to decrease feed costs should be approached with caution because of the effects of cow nutrition and body condition on reproductive success.

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South Dakota State University


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