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Yield as it Relates

Better yield means more meat for your buck!

I've been really processing this idea of yield. Now, I am not saying yield to opposing traffic, or yield to the opposition. I'm talking more about the yield or quantity from a harvest. This could be a crop yield, or a yield from a butcher. Today, I am talking about butcher yield. It may take a moment to get to my point, but let's dive in.

As we've been working through a drought, longest one I have experienced here in Michigan, I have been contemplating downsizing the herd. It is generally better to downsize then purchase hay from a dollars and cents standpoint because you don't know how long the drought will last. In Michigan, hopefully no longer then 6 weeks. Doesn't seem very long to my western friends, but remember I am not managing my land as if I live in the West. Maybe I should, but more on that later. There is benefits of hay purchasing in that you get to re-invest in your land with your purchase because cattle only consume approximately 20% of the value of the forage, with the rest being ripe with microbes to feed the soil.

The problem I see with downsizing is that my herd doesn't fit a specific mold of cattle. I don't adhere to 1 breed and I don't have a "standard" frame size. It becomes more difficult to find a suitable buyer who is ok with alternative breeds and frame sizes. So this leads to the question, "why did I make the decisions I made?"

It really came down to 2 things: safety and yield (I told you I'd get there). With the safety concern, I was starting a family and the last thing I wanted was my youngsters to get ran-down by a 1200 lb cow or steer. I side step of this safety concern is ensuring the herd to polled (horn free). I have taken drastic steps in both regards. Culling all animals that end up with horns, and an average weight reduction to about 600 lbs live weight. Currently, I am attempting to increase my cows' frame size closer to the 800 lb range by using Aberdeen (lowline) Angus.

Yield and production was the other reasoning. A lighter framed cow has a reduced calorie need for maintenance. This means that it takes less forage to feed and fatten a cow. This is a win when your only calories is from fresh forage during the growing season, and dried forage during the winter months. With yield, and this is what is most important to my readers, a smaller framed animal results in more meat in the freezer/fridge. When you pay on the hanging weight, the carcass still needs to be cut/ground to your specifications. The bone loss is reduced because the bones are smaller. Our yields approach 70% on the hanging weight. This is 5-10% more than our larger framed cousins. Also, while a portion of our grain-fed friends yield is substantial fat, the smaller framed, grass-fed alternative consists of more meat.

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