Even though it does not change the fact that 500 pound calves can make you more money overall than 700 pound calves, I have to admit to making a mistake. Rather than 500 pound calves being worth more than the 700 pound calves, the 700 pound calves were actually worth $80 more. (Which should teach me to use a calculator after midnight).
So how do you make more money with the 500 pound calves? A 1250 pound cow consumes 16.5 pounds more feed per day than a 700 pound cow. This comes to 495 pounds a month more hay or 2,475 pounds over the course of a five month winter feeding season. Even if you put up your own hay and can do so for only $100 a ton, the $80 market advantage just dropped by over $100, resulting in the 500 pound calves earning you $20 more per head, or $2,000 more per 100 calves (plus the additional 78 cows you could be running.)
The difference in consumption between the 1,250 pound cow and the 700 pound cow will also allow you to run 178 of the lighter cows for every 100 of those bigger cows on the same amount of forage and hay.
There have been people who commented that a 700 pound cow can't raise a 500 pound calf. In the 1970's and early 80's there were people doing just that by running smaller framed crossbred cows and taking advantage of hybrid vigor. Around the mid 80's feeders and packers were wanting bigger framed cows, and moderate framed cows fell by the wayside. By the early 90's previously moderately framed cattle such as Red Angus cows were weighing in at 1,800 pounds. Everyone jumped on the “bigger calves” bandwagon without thinking of the extra money it costs to raise those bigger calves.
Basically it boils down to an income of $101,500 on 100 of those 700 pound calves or $166,430 on 178 of those 500 pound calves with the same feed base. During times of drought, the extra money made by being able to run more of the lighter cattle could be the difference between selling out, or keeping the ranch.
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