AgResearch Invermay scientist Jason Archer spoke to about
130 people who attended a field day at Godley Peaks Station last week. Photo by Ruth Grundy
The key to getting the best returns from breeding beef cows
is to make sure they complement rather than compete with
other stock classes on the farm.
This is the message AgResearch Invermay scientist Jason
Archer gave to about 130 people who attended the Beef and
Lamb New Zealand South Canterbury Farming for Profit field
day at Godley Peaks Station, Lake Tekapo, last week.
''Accountants hate cows but farmers still have them'' and for
good reasons, he said.
In a gross margin analysis, the cow ''looks fairly challenged
and you wonder why we bother''.
But such an analysis was simplistic and did not take into
account such things as what type of feed or what contribution
the cow might be making to other on-farm enterprises such as
the sheep operation. It did not take into account labour
requirements, or benefits to parasite control, potential
value from income diversification or the sheer enjoyment of
farming cattle, he said.
''Part of the role of the cow is to buffer feed and take the
fat off her back at certain times.''
The cow cleaned up rough feed or used cheap feed.
The cow needed to be managed in such a way as to make sure it
would make more profit from that particular feed than any
other stock class. Or the cow did a job for the sheep
''That's what makes her profitable.''
The cow ''buffered feed'' from summer to winter and year to
It was particularly useful in areas of ''extremes of
''But don't have too many cows ... and pay attention to the
way you are feeding them. They are buffers ... but not
Young, growing cattle should be managed differently, and in
the same way as growing lambs were managed, but in a way as
to not compete with other stock classes, he said.
So as not to compete with other stock, calving dates should
be selected to match a surplus of feed.
Young cattle needed to grow, ''the faster the better'',
because early slaughter reduced maintenance costs.
Stock numbers needed to be carefully considered - there
should be enough young cattle to maximise the use of high
quality feed but there still should be enough cows to use and
remove low quality feed.
Thought also needed to be given to making sure cows were fed
well between calving and mating, he said.
In a panel discussion, Dr Archer said selecting traits for
faster growth had to be balanced with selecting for
environmental suitability and fertility, but that could be
However, he thought perhaps too much attention was given to
the part genetics played in growth and more attention should
be given to nutrition.
''Personally, I believe we can feed animals a whole lot
In the quest for robust cattle which could handle fluctuation
in feed, it was the role of the stud breeders to ''take a few
''It is a cost they have to cover ... we've got to be
prepared to fail as well,'' Dr Archer said.
- Photo by Ruth Grundy