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Economically-Optimal Mature Beef Cow Weight in the U.S. Southern Plains

Acton, Courtney Lynn
This research builds on previous studies by determining the profit-maximizing beef cow weight under common herd scenarios for U.S. Southern Plains beef cow-calf operations. Scenarios included Angus and Brangus cattle, Bermuda and native range pasture, as well as spring and fall calving. The relationship between cow size and calf weaning weight were determined by utilizing data from two Oklahoma and one Arkansas research stations. Data were collected from 1988 to 2009 and include 3,041 observations. Using historical data for cow cull prices, calf prices, and feed prices, prices were projected for 15 years to reflect price variation observed in a recent cattle cycle. A direct profit function was computed using cow-calf revenues and production costs for cows with a mature weight between 950 and 1,800 pounds, in 50 pound increments. A grid search was used to find the most profitable cow size across the cow�s lifetime and per acre. Results concluded the optimal cow size varied from 950 to 1,800 pounds across scenarios, feed cost variations and the year of the cattle cycle that the heifer entered the herd.