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Tips To Maximize Profitability in Your Beef Cow Herd

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
March 11, 2015        
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


Tips To Maximize Profitability in Your Beef Cow Herd
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (03/11/15) — Every beef producer wants their cow herd to be profitable.  To maximize profitability, a producer must properly manage their herd.  There are four key areas to be managed in your cow herd: production, economics and finance, marketing, and people.  These four management areas are all connected, and if all four receive the attention they need, you will have a successful business.

A current trend in the beef industry is a push for cattle that are big, fast growing, and grade well.  Cow/calf producers in particular feel this pressure from feedlots they sell to.  BEEF Magazine columnist Burke Teichert writes, “...our industry is running about 25% more cows and yearling replacements every year than we are selling calves to the feedlot. Cow-calf producers also keep the cows and replacements all year long, and the sale calves for 6-8 months. Thus, our cows must be efficient and trouble-free.” 

Running an efficient and profitable cow herd is not very feasible if you use bulls with the highest EPDs for weaning weight and carcass-related characteristics.  Therefore, you should be looking for bulls that provide good growth and adequate weaning weight to balance industry demands while also maintaining herd profitability.  Be sure to consider your environment and labor situation, you should be in the beef enterprise that best fits your location and abilities. 

To keep your cow herd profitable, you want one that requires little overhead in equipment, facilities and labor.  Try to replace as much feed with grazing as possible.  That can be tough with Minnesota winters, but look at pasture management methods that allow for longer grazing and better growth.  Your cows must fit where you operate and be able to get by with little intervention.  Your intervention should be for routine immunizations, pregnancy checks, and the like.  Have a good facility to fulfill these needs, but don’t concern yourself with extra barns for calving and other unnecessary “needs”. 

Lastly, look at reproduction rates.  You want to keep cows with excellent pregnancy rates and weaned calf crop percentages.  Focusing on good reproduction and keeping cows that get pregnant every year and have a healthy calf can result in more pounds sold than focusing solely on getting huge calves.  With that said, cows that don’t perform should be culled.  They are additional cost and they don’t help pay the bills.  In addition, select for bulls that will produce daughters that fit in with your management style and system.

A profitable cow herd is one that is managed for all aspects of the operation, and one that has a manager who sees the interconnectedness of all these areas.


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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