Everything Is Relative To Your Environment

The Grazier's Art

Profitable cattle operations use the same fundamentals but different cattle types and management to match their surroundings.

Published on: January 9, 2014

Environments can be dramatically different and that’s why cattle must be.

Ambient temperatures and humidity change by location. Day length impacts the glands in the cow for better pregnancy as the days grow longer; the higher the latitude, the more it impacts them. Altitude also has an effect on forage quality, with higher altitude allowing for cooler nights and better energy in the forages.

Adapted cattle phenotypes must vary according to these and other environmental variables.

Further, that means an animal perfectly adapted to one specific environment will not excel in a completely opposed environment.  That is why there are different phenotypes adapted to different environments.

Considering all this, composite breeding is the way to have a superbly adapted animal in a specific environment and still have a good saleable animal that meets the criteria of the market.

It’s also imperative to remember that grass management must be very different on sub-irrigated, high-altitude meadows than in tropical grassland at sea level. The latter environment I consider a low-octane environment that requires cattle which can thrive due to nutritional and heat adaptation.

Yet despite all these differences, when we consider the basics of planning a profitable cattle operation we realize they are the same regardless of environment.

1. Proper calving season: If our cows calve when forage is in excess we are way ahead of where we will be if they calve when there is no forage growing. This is an extremely easy management change to make.

2. Adapted animals: If we have them we can progress. If not we suffer the pushing-a-string syndrome.

3. Effective, minimal supplementation: We cannot starve a profit into our operation. Sometimes it is necessary to provide a small amount of protein, which allows us to increase our stocking rate, especially if our calving season is in sync with nature.

4. Mineral supplementation: Depending on environment and soil weathering we may or may not need minerals. It also depends on stocking rate and management practices. The best I have used is the free-choice, cafeteria-style mineral program.

5. Correct grazing management: Nothing impacts our profits more than stocking rate. Also take into consideration the environment you are working in. It is important to use stockpiled pastures to avoid or minimize hay feeding.