Cow size and age as economic drivers of beef production systems in the Nebraska Sandhills

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Professional Animal Scientist


Contribution of cow age and size to profitability of beef production systems in the Nebraska Sandhills was analyzed using hedonic methodology. Four years of cow-calf production systems data from 197 observations per year were used. Historical prices for inputs and production outputs were used. Pooled hedonic type regression models, representing 9 possible production system scenarios, evaluated the effect of cow size and age on profitability. Each model included production year, marketing year, calving season, calf BW at birth, calf weaning age, calf BW at weaning, average cow BW, cow age, wintering system, calf sex, and postweaning system as independent variables. Three variables—(1) calf BW at birth, (2) calf BW at weaning, and (3) calf weaning age—were used as dependent variables in 3 secondary regressions. The secondary estimated effects were added to the primary estimated effects providing an adjusted estimate of cow characteristics on net returns. In general, animals marketed at slaughter contribute more positively to profit if they are from heavier cows. Conversely, if animals are sold at weaning or as yearlings, calves born to the lightest dams contribute most to returns. Dam age also contributes to returns differentially depending on marketing scheme. Younger dams contribute more to profit if cattle are marketed on a hot carcass basis, whereas grid pricing favors contribution to returns of more mature dams. If profit is the motive, the contribution cow size and age make on profitability may or may not be worth considering depending on both production and marketing scheme.

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