The question often arises, “Should I buy my beef replacement females instead of raising my own?’ The question does not have a simple answer and is dependent upon a number of issues. The question does have some economic consequences, but many of the factors in the answer to whether to raise or buy replacements are not purely economic. Even the option of purchased replacements has at least three alternatives: bred heifers, bred cows, or cow/calf pairs. Below is a list of some of the factors to be addressed in deciding upon the replacement female route.
Breeding program (genetics)
Relative costs of heifer calves, bred heifers, bred cows, and cow/calf pairs
Feeder calf price trends
Relative production levels
Owner management level
Owners of one bull breeding units have a more difficult time in effectively generating their own replacements. To start with, a herd of 30 cows or less may only need to keep back 4 to 6 heifers per year. Maintaining this small group of heifers separately so that they are managed appropriately can be a difficult problem on some farms. With a one bull unit it is extremely difficult to implement any crossbreeding program to take advantage of heterosis. In fact, the one bull unit generating its own replacement heifers is pushed in the direction of using British genetics almost exclusively. Unless a commitment to using artificial insemination on the first calf heifers is made, the herd owner is coerced into using breeds with relatively light birth weights to minimize calving difficulty in the heifers. The operator that must use the same bull on first calf heifers as is used on the mature cowherd will likely be forced to give up some genetic potential for growth in his bull as he must also select for light birth weights. Though the light birth weight - high growth bulls are available, they do tend to be higher priced. To avoid sire:daughter matings the length of time a bull can be used in a one bull herd keeping replacements is also shortened.