Regardless of how you choose to graze, feed, or manage your livestock, adapted animals are crucial to your environment and any possible success. Build your own landrace breed specifically selected for your environment and management.
Point 4 of my blog entry, Quickest Ways to Profitability & Harmony mentions the importance of adapted animals.
I cannot emphasize enough how critical it is to find and develop adapted cattle or other livestock. The difficulty certainly is in finding the initial stock and it’s quite likely you’ll find some you think will adapt, yet it will be – maybe – only 10% to 20% of them can even survive much less thrive under your management, grazing resources, and weather conditions. It’s a long expensive process to get started since you may find that NONE of the animals you purchase will make your selection guidelines for adaptability. Make sure your budget is strong for this stage. Don’t go into debt – have a job or good investments to keep food on the table as you navigate this massive fallout stage. Culling rigorously is critical early on and only keep as replacements animals which have met all your criteria.
For example, a cattle buyer wouldn’t buy calves from Florida to put in an Iowa feedlot! The calves would be completely unadapted and would not do well at all – especially in the winter – although feeding corn can overcome some nutritional deficiencies.
Moving stock from one climate to another is almost always a recipe for disaster or a very expensive selection process. It’s far better to find stock grown in your own weather and ground conditions. Open cows and flat out death less may be substantial. Remember that semen or embryos from a different area will be the same. You will likely be going backwards with each generation of introduced genetics. Be wary of applying bandages contrary to your specific goals or you won’t be able to select the best animals for your purpose.
Some will encourage you to purchase bred heifers or cows, but I’ve been unable to justify that decision since there are simply no stock to be found – even expensive stock – that will stay in the herd for long (cows, bulls, or replacement heifers). After 30 plus years of trying to introduce animals, far and away the best is to retain my own heifers and bulls (some say you need a minimum of 100 cows to be able to select bulls from your own herd). Take your time, build slowly. Buy the best you can afford from reputable breeders who grow animals as close to how you will – won’t be perfect, but it’s likely the best place to start.
The cost of raising and developing your own replacements is substantial – compare that to buying and having a lot of fallout. Remember to include the extra labor and pasture to develop them. Will you hold them an extra year before breeding? then a separate pasture is needed to keep them from the bulls. Farming and ranching have expenses coming at you from many angles! Beware.
Another consideration that i have fallen prey to is buying cows in my area that seem adapted, only to find out they’ve been on corn since they were born! It is very likely that their rumens will ever adapt to grazing and may even die especially with highly toxic endophyte fescue pastures. That’s an expensive mistake – speaking from experience.
Other important decisions before buying:
- what are your marketing goals – commodity or special niche? Both can be upgraded to ‘value added’ status. Value added in commodity may mean breeding for black cattle, but consider whether or not they will thrive without expensive inputs. It’s all a balance
- Selling adapted breeding stock is a long term commitment. Until you establish an adapted line and build a reputation, much of your production will go the commodity route. Don’t think that you will receive a great premium at the get-go. Overestimating your income will come back to bite you in a hurry.
- What class or species of livestock most closely meet your skills, market, and interest? What is the weather like in your area? Some places are simply not fit for man or beast in the wintertime. Especially as we get older and fighting the elements also gets old.
- Build an excellent perimeter fence on your property BEFORE getting any livestock. Contact your local extension agent for the definition of a legal fence in your state or county, then build better. Stock getting out is a good way to ruin relationships with your neighbors and you will need to be on good terms with them.
Compare these two Angus cows. Photo one is clearly not adapted to my management and is very likely not bred. This is one of the 3-year-old cows i bought as a pair in spring of 2022. She suffered through the green growing season, raised a poor calf, and has not done well through an admittedly tough, very muddy winter of stockpile grazing. However, the 6-year-old cow to the right is an adapted home raised animal, raised a good calf, is in acceptable condition, and looks very much bred to calve early in the season. These cows were grazed in the same mob these past 12 months.
No hay was fed, but protein tubs were provided to help utilize the mature stockpile.
The above photos show the great importance of selecting for adapted cows. Do not make the mistakes i’ve made.
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