BIRTH WEIGHT – “The Rest Of The Story”

As I talked to some of my fellow Gelbvieh Breeders about writing an article on birth weight, they all agreed that this is probably the most misunderstood piece of information that is used to purchase a bull. Well, here it goes and I am going to give it to you with both barrels because I am seeing too many people making decisions that are not in the best interest of their farm or ranch just because they do not have all the facts on birth weight.

I am often asked by my customers, “When you buy a bull, what birth weight are you looking for?” My response is always that it is one of the last things that I look at, because birth weight is influenced by so many things that are non-genetic, which is the environment. The environment can be many things – the first of which is weather. The colder and longer the duration of the winter, you will see an increase in the birth weights of your calf crop. I am assuming that the nutritional needs of the cattle have been met. I have talked to breeders in Texas and North Carolina about the use of certain genetics and they agree that as you move south and east, that birth weights decrease. As a mater of fact, they specifically say 10-12 pounds less. Same genetics, different values. The weather is an environmental factor that plays a huge role and is out of your control. Currently we are calving our first calf heifers and the calves are anywhere from 8-12 pounds lighter than where I would like to be. Nice winter, lighter birth weight calves.

Feed is another environmental factor that affects birth weight. When you increase the amount of protein in the ration, you will grow calves. WE need to make sure that adequate protein is available to the cow as she needs a certain level of protein to help her utilize the feed stuffs that she is picking up. Management of the level is key. I am aware of situations where people are actually not meeting the requirements of the cow on purpose so they can produce lighter calves so that the birth weights are lower so it looks good for you on sale day. In this case, the human becomes part of the environment. On our ranch, we feed to maintain a body condition score of 4.5 – 5.5, with protein levels of 8% to 11 % with heavy emphasis put on maintaining a good balanced mineral program.

Probably the most economically important thing that affects birth weight is length of calf. Everyone wants long stretchy calves on sale day because that means weight and we still sell calves by the pound. Well those calves weighed more when they were born as well, and this has nothing to do with calving ease. I have seen some short, blocky fronted English breed of calves that calve extremely hard at 60-70 pounds and weighed 140 less at weaning than stretchy Gelbvieh / Gelbvieh Cross calves that weighted 85-95 pounds. You picked up weaning weight, profit, and calving ease. Length of your calves is money and it is very economically important to you not to give it up. This is why crossing purebred Gelbvieh genetics on any Angus cow base is instant cash in your pocket. You will get instant length and muscle. This translates into cash.

I got a little off the subject but I can get pretty excited when I know I can help you make more money. Anyway, yo know your cow herd better than anyone else. Take home the genetics that will do you the most good –not what has the best birth weight. Birth weight is only one factor to consider when burying a bull and should not be the primary one. I am confident that any bull in this sale offering can be used on any cows without concern about calving ease. With that said, if you are looking for a bull to put on heifers, give me a call and I will make several recommendations.

Put more value on the CE and BW EPD’s as they are more representative of the genetic potential of the bull. Also, look at the bull. Look for the smoothness through the front shoulders and look at the length of the calf.

The most important things that I can do for you is to provide you with the best genetics possible and to provide you with knowledge. Knowledge will allow you to use these genetics to achieve maximum profitability. At Hojer Gelbvieh Ranch, we intend to lead in both areas.