In selecting individual cattle, Paschal said to keep the following factors in mind: trait levels in milking ability, mature size, ability to store energy, stress tolerance, calving ease and lean-to-fat ratio.

Paschal recommends producers review AgriLife Extension publication E-190, “Texas Adapted Genetic Strategies for Beef Cattle V: Type and Breed Characteristics and Uses” at http://animalscience.tamu.edu/images/pdf/genetics/geneticsE190.pdf to help them match the appropriate breed type to specific production levels.

There are pros and cons when purchasing replacement cattle, and extensive delays when raising replacement heifers, Paschal said.

 “It takes about 40 months for the calf that is bred today to produce a marketable product,” he said. “That’s a long time to wait for a return on your genetic investment. It could be shortened by purchasing replacement females. Purchasing generally can get you into the business more quickly.

However, it may be difficult to find the desired breed type at the price you want to pay. Raising replacement heifers has the advantages of allowing for selection of the appropriate genetics for your environment."

Purchasing methods can include the local commission company, special stocker and replacement female sales, private treaty and Internet sales. The main drawback to Internet sales, Pascal said, is that you buy a minimum of half a load, about 20 head at a time. For larger operations that would be desirable.

Paschal said the advantage of private treaty is the producer has the opportunity to actually visit the seller’s ranch.

“You get to spend some time there and see the operation,” he said. “This does have its advantages in that you are seeing what you are buying beforehand.”

Regardless of which method is chosen, travel expenses and time are generally traded for price paid.

To avoid reproductive failure, Paschal recommends using fertile bulls that have passed a breeding soundness exam conducted by a veterinarian, and cows that are in good body condition (at least a five or better) and are exhibiting estrus.

Heifers should weigh a minimum of 65 percent of their mature weight prior to breeding. In addition, they should be at least a body condition score of six.

Paschal also recommends a pelvic area measurement in heifers prior to breeding.

Culling heifers with narrow or small pelvic areas should help reduce calving difficulty.

Put out equal numbers of young bulls and mature bulls. A young bull put out with older bulls could get injured fighting or while breeding cows, he said.

And don’t forget about herd health, he said, recommending that producers get input from their veterinarian to develop a preventive herd health plan to protect against reproductive diseases that can cause abortion in bred females.

“Herd health and nutrition are very important,” Paschal said. “Biosecurity is very important. Have good fences and watch what you bring in. Animals that you bring in or purchase you need to isolate at least 30 days.

“Don’t expect those thin cows to breed because they just won’t,” he said. “Number of calves born multiplied by price per pound and weight minus cost is your net return. Reproduction is 10 times more important than growth. Growth traits are about four times more important than carcass traits.

Select cows for adaptability, fertility and maternal ability. Select bulls for adaptability, soundness, direct calving ease and growth.”