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Mauldin Classic Herefords

Raising the right size for better efficiency and profit for small farms

Searching for the “Classic” sweet spot in Efficiency and Financial Justification in Classic Herefords

By Jack Mauldin
March 12,2016

I have learned if you don’t have a set goal that can be measured in a business, you will never know if you are moving towards success or not. Even in a small business like our beef cattle, we want to establish some goal that can guide us and direct us in improvements needed. We have read that the modern beef cattle may produce a lot of beef but are not as efficient in the amount of beef produced compared to the feed they require. The groups that created the Lowline Angus and Miniature Hereford breeds were wanting to develop a more efficient cow by reducing the size of the animals. That does not mean the lower the better because there is a point where the value of the smaller animal starts to dramatically decrease. We constantly hear from many people raising the smaller cattle that they can’t carry the animals to a local sale barn to sell and get reasonable prices because of the smaller size of the animals.

We are looking for a sweet spot size that would allow us to have more efficiency in the size of cattle we raise but not have them so small that they have little value when carried to a local sale barn. We believe there is a “Classic” size that is good for the small farms and financially justified if carried to a local sale barn. That would provide a goal of being profitable selling our cattle through private treaty or at a local sale barn. We have reviewed several articles and research papers related to this area and believe we can focus on  certain size ranges of beef cattle that would give us more efficient animals to raise and still have a decent value if taken to a local sale barn.

Here is some text from one of the articles we read.

So here is a summary of the high, middle, and low averages.

If the “Optimum cow size” report is correct, it would be

The report went on the say “some 1 frame cows weighting 950 to 1000 lbs could consistently wean off 58% – 60% calves.So there is little loss in having somewhat smaller cows in the herd. Let me consider another range of cow weights with just a 55% weaning ratio instead of 58% - 60%.

A cow with a mature weight of 850 lbs, would be a 0 Frame Score on the Miniature Hereford Frame Score Chart according to the Nobel Foundation Frame calculator.  A cow with a mature weight of 900 lbs would be a 1 Frame score according to the Nobel Foundation Frame calculator. That would mean an improved efficiency rating and weaning calves close to the ones the bigger cows that were producing at a less efficiency rating.

In the Optimum cow size article, it states “a cow eats about 2.5 to 3 percent of her own weight in feed every day.” If we just use the 2.5 percent number, here is what the amount of feed would be required for cows with different weights.

If you have the acreage/feed to run 20 cows that weigh 1400 lbs, here are the efficiency benefits you would get with smaller cows with the same acreage/feed.

Looking at it from another view point, the efficiency resulting from a more efficient size would mean you need less acreage/feed to get close results to the larger sized cows.

Now putting these facts together.

800 lb. Cows weaned a total of 14,840 lbs compared to 1,400 lb. Cows weaning a total of 11,400 lbs.

Now let us look at what the prices were, on March 8, 2016, at the Amarillo Livestock Auction according to the weight categories and prices.

Amarillo Livestock Auction – March 8, 2016

Feeder Steers Medium and Large 1

 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price

    6      382       382       221.00         221.00

   10    435-437     436    209.00-213.00     211.00

   10    461-463     462    195.00-211.00     204.40

    5      593       593       162.00         162.00

   18    615-638     632    167.00-169.50     168.04

   19    670-681     677    156.00-162.00     158.19

    5      694       694       152.50         152.50   

   25    705-738     729    153.00-157.00     154.08

   92    750-789     778    150.00-153.00     150.97

   42      843       843       144.50         144.50

   56      896       896       138.00         138.00

   25      978       978       133.50         133.50

The 800 and 900 lb cows would be producing weaned calves around 450-500 lbs that were in the higher price weight ranges. Our Classic Hereford bull weighed 1,150 at 2 years old. Taken 6 months of weight gain off at 1.5 lbs per day would put his weight around 900 lbs. If you carried a steer over until it was slaughter age of 18 months and he weighed around 900 lbs at $133 per hundred wt. that would be around $1,200 which is not bad.

Finally, it comes down to what is a measurable number that can specifically tell you how well your cattle are doing against modern day beef cattle. A frame score can’t tell you that. How much or how little your cattle need to eat can’t tell you that. How efficient your cattle are can’t tell you that. The ultimate measurement we will set for judging our cattle against modern day beef cattle will be the weaning weight at 205 days and the general feed requirement ratio when compared to a 1,300 lb. Cow. We will select our cow’s objective weight to be 850 - 1,100 lbs to compare against the 1,300 lb. Cow. The average cow/calf weaning ratio for 1,300 lb. Cows were around 39% and we will round that up to 40%.  We will set the 850 lb cows at 53% which is lower than the article stated they could easily reach.


We are setting our goal to be profitable and have a herd that can be financially justified at selling show stock, breeding stock, or slaughter animals if we focus on having a herd that are in the 0-2 Frame score size range. Our main measurable goal will be 450-550 lb calves with weaning weight at 205 days old. Our small herd size has animals that cover a wide range of frame score sizes but we will focus on evolving to our goal to 1-3 frame score sizes. Our objectives are not to try and get the most money for our animals but to feel we have done our best to improve our herd and have buyers that are happy with the product we have produced along with the information we will share with them.

by: Heather Smith Thomas

“The feed requirements for the larger cow are not compensated for cost-wise by the additional size of her calf, compared to the smaller cow. “A cow eats about 2.5 to 3 percent of her own weight in feed every day,” says Pharo. The larger animal will have a larger feed requirement. Yet she cannot wean off enough extra pounds of calf to justify that extra feed cost. “A 2 frame cow that weighs 1000 pounds can easily wean off 50 percent of her own body weight. In contrast, it is much harder for a 1,200 pound cow to wean off 50 percent of her own weight, and a 1400 pound cow will never be able to wean off 50 percent of her own weight and stay in the herd,” Pharo  says. Some of the smaller cows will actually come close to weaning off 60 percent of their own body weight. Pharo has had some 1 frame cows weighing 950 to 1000 pounds that could consistently wean off 58 to 60 percent of their own weight and stay in the herd for many years.” (Pharo Cattle Company)

A Case Study of the Cow  Size and Production Efficiency Relationship

W.A. Whitworth1, C.R. Stark, Jr.1, and T.G. Montgomery2

Story in Brief

The choices made by beef cattle producers when culling cows from the herd should be based on sound economic and production data. Some producers have assumed that a larger cow will wean a heavier calf and therefore will be more profitable. This mindset has led producers to add large breed genetics to their commercial cow herds in pursuit of larger frames and the assumed increased profits. A better culling criteria than cow size is cow production efficiency (CPE). The CPE may be defined in numerous ways, but the most common measurement is pounds of weaned calf divided by cow weight at weaning. From this ratio, the more critical measure of dollars of weaned calf per dollar of cow maintenance expense can be determined. To calculate these measurements, producers must connect market prices of calves and cows with the calf weaning weights, cow weights at the time of calf weaning, and maintenance costs for the herd. A case study conducted on the Southeast Research and Extension Center cow herd at Monticello, Arkansas indicated that larger cows have the lowest CPE ratios. Economic analysis of these production results revealed that feeding cost differences between high and low efficiency cows could be more than $50 per cow. Calf revenue difference per cow across the cow efficiency groups was found to exceed $75.

Below is a chart from a study showing the cow/weaning calf weight ratio. There is a dramatic difference The larger the cow with greater feed requirement, the less breeders get back in their weaned calves. That also means more acreage required for bigger cows that are not as efficient. CPE stands for Cow production efficiency and is simply the calf weight-to-cow weight ratio.

Research Articles of Interest