Ranching By Number

  On more than one occasion I have made disparaging comments about the tendency of our ranching industry to waste time gathering data. We keep spiral-bound notebooks full of all kinds of information, most of which is fairly useless. Folks who are in the business of producing purebred breeding stock may be compelled to gather information like precise birth weight, birth date, and other such data, but for commercial operators, most of this is a complete waste of time. Folks who manage commercial cow-calf herds should concentrate on identifying the (hopefully) small number of truly defective mother cows in their herd, and that determination can be made by simply observing the herd from time to time and making note of crippled cows and their sisters that produce dink or hairball calves. Come marketing time, selling these cows will take care of most of the problems in the commercial herd. Even more disturbing than collecting irrelevant data is the tendency to collect and use data that guides us down the wrong path. Examples of this are often called production data, and include things like average weaning weight, yearling weight, feed conversion rates, average daily gain (especially on grain). Stocker operators may find some of these numbers useful, but for a cow-calf ranch that is based on grazin

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