Preserving Genetics of Utmost Importance During DroughtWed, 20 Mar 2013 15:56:46 CDT
Headed into its third year of extreme drought in northeast Kansas, Barb Downey of the Downey Ranch says they have compiled some solid strategies for dealing with Mother Nature.
“As a cow-calf operation, our primary interest is in, A) preserving our resources and making sure we have that grass in a good state to recover when we do start getting rain and our second priority is preserving that cow herd and preserving that genetic investment we’ve worked so hard to make over the last many years.”
In an effort to keep as many mature cows as possible, she says, last fall they weaned calves three months earlier than usual.
“What that does is remove pressure on the grass; the cow’s energy demands go down by about a third. Her grazing pressure does indeed go down and, of course, her water consumption goes down.”
The last resort is culling from the pool of cows that have already passed every test. Downey’s many years of individual performance and progeny carcass data only makes each culling decision more difficult now.
“We’ve tuned up the average cow into what is our ideal cow. So we’ve invested a heck of a lot of time and effort and labor and thought time in getting this cow. So our interest is to absolutely preserve this genetic base.”
They usually background all calves at home and retain ownership through the finishing phase, but the most recent calf crop was sold outright. What little harvested feed was stockpiled is reserved for the mature herd that will, somehow, get even better.
“If there is an upside, the upside is this is an opportunity to put some heavy selection pressure on those cows,” Downey says.
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