What Makes a Good Cow?

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by TroutRiver, Nov 15, 2011.

  1. TroutRiver

    TroutRiver Well-Known Member Supporter

    Nov 26, 2010
    I thought it would be interesting to get everyone's opinions on what makes a "good" cow. If you were looking for the perfect, ideal dairy cow (or beef cow), what qualities would you look for? What would you look at first, and what qualities are less important?
  2. SCRancher

    SCRancher Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2011
    South Carolina
    Beef general - docile - gains well on grass only.
    For beef cow - kicks out a healthy calf w/o assistance and rebreeds 2-3 months after while still nursing her calf.

    I'm sure others will have more to say on the matter.

  3. Karin L

    Karin L Bovine and Range Nerd

    Oct 5, 2006
    Alberta, Canada
    For me, docility and fertility are huge factors in selection for a real good beef cow. She has to know the difference between a human and a dog even with a young calf at her side; if she doesn't and starts getting all cranky with me when I have mess around with her calf she's gone. But I also won't keep cows that won't do anything if there's a coyote or a dog in with their calves!

    Cows that are able to come back in heat 60 days or less after calving is ideal, is a great mother with her calves, milks good, and throws a calf with no assistance is also ideal.

    I would also love cows that are feed efficient, not gluttonous pigs that have to eat more in order to keep the same level of condition as those cows with higher feed efficiency, or need supplementation if they're on grass. These are hard-doers, and not worth keeping in the herd. If a cow can't hold her on just grass and hay AND can raise a really good calf at side, even if she looks like crap for the first few months after calving, she's going to grow wheels under her.

    Cows also need to wean calves that are at least 43% of their own weight, at the minimum. Ideally, 50 to 60% is a great number to work towards in calf growth at weaning (typically 205-day weaning). If it's not the bull's fault that he's throwing too-small calves, then it's the cow that needs to be culled.

    Conformation is important as well. She needs to have the conformation to be able to hold a calf in her. A good cow needs to be wide in the hips and have good spring in the ribs. Heart girth, length of the body and good udder and feet are also important. I won't keep a cow that has coke-bottle teats or a pendulous udder. Teeth are also important: it's not good to keep cows that have teeth worn down to the gums. She also has to look feminine, but not so feminine that she is too long in the neck or anything like that.

    I know there's more but those are the top four things that make, in my book, a GOOD cow.
  4. DJ in WA

    DJ in WA Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 27, 2005
    I’ll just add to what Karin said.

    I decided a few years ago to work toward a perfect cow, but now I’m thinking I won’t live long enough, especially with few acres and cows. Don't have many to select from. But here’s what I would like for an all-around cow. Note that it also depends on where you live and your feed and your operation.

    Docile – gain better, get sick less, don’t need buffalo fences, less deadly

    Smaller framed – More efficient, easier to handle

    Feminine – heavily muscled cows eat more as muscle tissue has high metabolic rate

    Polled – don’t want to mess with disbudding or paste, or dehorning

    Good udder – tight attachment, not floppy, with smaller teats so calf can get hold of them

    Not black. Heat stress begins at just 70 degrees and requires extra energy from cow. Black cattle absorb more solar radiation and more die in heat waves. Do want skin pigment to avoid sunburn. Red angus work.

    Good feet. Hooves stay short, stand on toes, good depth of heel, never need trimming

    Fertile, but hopefully not pregnant at age 6 months as mine did.

    Attractive. Why have ugly cattle? Am trying British Whites, but they could use work on some of the above. And maybe use some linebreeding to get consistency. Herds I’ve looked at have wide variation in type and quality.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2011
  5. MO_cows

    MO_cows I calls em like I sees em

    Aug 13, 2010
    W Mo
    Good job, SCR, Karin and DJ. I think you covered it for the beef side.
  6. commonsense

    commonsense Well-Known Member

    Jun 1, 2008
    NE IL
    I only know dairy cows, so here is what I look for! Medium size (too big and you're just throwing away hay), well-balanced, well-attached udder with all quarters working and all 4 teats pointing straight down, longish legs so that my bucket milker will clear the floor, compact body, good feet, a tail!, ability to keep condition on a forage feeding program...

    I would add docile to the list, but in my (limited) experience, all my cows have come around and become very nice cows. Some were wild heifers when I bought them and I was nervous just thinking of milking them, others were calm and quiet. ALL of them adapted well to my milking routine and stick to the rules for the most part.