It's a fact that we humans are conditioned to place a high value on sheer weight. We believe heavyweight boxers can hit harder than boxers of lesser weights. We see three hundred-pound lineman playing football because they block harder and are harder to block. The results seem to justify this reasoning.

Is there any reason, then, that we shouldn't think of 700-pound weaned calves as strikes of pure gold?

This column is the third in my three-part series. The data were generated through use of the Cowculator computer program developed by Oklahoma State University. One average-milking breed (breed A) and one heavy-milking breed (breed B) were selected for analysis.

The accompanying table expresses three very important points:

1) Profit potential can increase as cow weight increases:

2) profit potential can be breed-dependent:

3) profit potential is very management-dependent:

4) profit potential decreases as pasture-carrying capacity decreases.

The first point expresses what has long driven many cattlemen to emphasize large sized cows. According to the Cowculator analysis, although cow costs increase as weight increases, the sheer weights of larger and larger progeny, when calculated on the same basis, can overwhelm increases in per-cow costs (pure gold). This is illustrated in columns one and two for each breed in the accompanying table.

The Calculator data provide a yes answer to the question, "Can profit potential be breed dependent?" This is because differences in milk production, growth rate and organ size can significantly affect maintenance costs. And it is when the greater costs of the heavy-milking breed are backed out of gross profits that net profits take a big hit. For example, as shown in the optimal columns of the table at right, it is possible to make as much net profit with an 1,100 pound cow of breed A as with the 1,400 pound cow of breed B.

The table illustrates the point that profit potential is management dependent. I incorporated three main variables in going from the Cowculator maintenance costs to net profit:

1) Cow maintenance costs as a percentage of total costs:

2) number of calves weaned as a percentage of cows exposed:

3) pounds of calves weaned as a percentage of cow body weight.

The table shows two examples of how much net profit can vary from optimal based on operator efficiency. It is impossible to present the affects of each of the myriad of possibilities the management factor can create. But it can be said that the average over the range of cow weights for a best case and a worst case scenario can vary $117. In general, each one percent decrease from optimal in management-controlled efficiencies reduces net profit $14.20 per 1,100 pound cow.

But, real gold can quickly change to fool's when increased cow size ends up overwhelming available forage acres, which Cowculator shows can happen. Suddenly, as cow weights increase from 1,000 pounds to 1,400 pounds, pasture carrying capacity (per 100 acres) falls from 59 cows to 47 cows for Breed A and from 51 cows to 44 cows for Breed B.

It bears repeating that the information presented in this month's column and last month's column was generated through the use of the Cowculator computer program developed at Oklahoma State University. I am especially thankful for the guidance and counsel provided by Dr. David Lalman, extension beef nutritionist.

To contact Fred Knop, write Drovers or send e-mail to fredlyn@aol.com

fredlyn@aol.com