If you’re in the cattle business, drought is a bad word but sooner or later the occurrence of drought is likely going to be reality. A good portion of cow-calf producing regions in the U.S. and Canada are in areas that may experience dry conditions more years than not. So, preparations for dry years and their consequences need to be understood. This article is not necessarily about drought, but of early weaning of beef calves; one of many drought management strategies.
Utilizing Annual crops as feedstuffs for livestock is a common practice, and in today’s environment of higher forage and pasture costs, it really makes sense. Many and maybe most livestock production systems today involve some sort of farming aspect to the operation. Yes, producing hay is considered farming in some circles but that’s not the point of this blog. In sustainable ranching practices, having the forage resource available and not having to purchase significant amounts of additional forages or supplements is a key indicator of profitability.
In many areas of the central and northern plains states, spring has sprung early this year. I’ve heard locals in these areas comment that grasses, trees and shrubs are anywhere from 2-4 weeks ahead of normal; certainly the temperatures would agree with that. I was in the Canadian province of Ontario the last week of March and I heard that some folks had already planted small grains and even corn, just to say they did it in March. Grass (native or tame pasture) is truly a crop and livestock are the harvesting equipment. With the early spring and green up occurring, it is tempting to let the grazing begin now. High forage costs also make it tempting, but let’s take a closer look.
The beef cow herd number in the U.S. has been on a steady downward trend since the peak of the last defined cattle cycle (mid 1990s). In Canada, the number has been an even steeper decline. Some would suggest that the cattle cycle is broken, looks different or is simply not well defined today. Record values of essentially every class of animal in the beef industry, coupled with low inventory and supplies, is leading to an outcry by many analysts and experts for herd expansion. Well, these calls are likely being heard to some extent as there is evidence of more replacement females being retained.
It’s a new year, 2012, and the optimism in the Cattle Industry continues. Spring calving is just around the corner and thus a great percentage of the 2012 Calf-crop is in the 3rd trimester of fetal development or very close to it.Over 85% of fetal growth occurs during this stage of gestation, and nutritional demands of the mother cow are increasing at a rapid rate.Protein and energy demands increase nearly 20% just during the last month of pregnancy (see chart below).
Spring born calves are now being weaned, shipped, marketed and transitioned from summer through fall to winter. The words “calf weaning” can spell fear for some producers and opportunity for others. Weaning practices or methods vary from conventional methods to ones where pre-conditioning is involved, to fenceline, two-step, or simply the “weaning them on the truck to town” method.
There’s always been a lot of attention to supplement cost.Some will argue it’s more true now than ever with higher input cost for beef production, but I don’t recall a time ever in the past when feed and supplement cost was NOT a factor.Earlier bog topics the past several months by my colleagues and I have addressed many cost and value topics pertaining to feed and beef production.
I recently had the good fortune to attend a company-sponsored conference on Beef Production Critical Control Points. Just the title/topic of this conference would open up a long list of subjects one would expect to learn. Nutritionists, veterinarians, economists, ranchers, feedlot operators and anyone else would come up with a long list or perhaps their own specific list. In fact, many surveys by various organizations and institutions exist with a near endless list of production management categories. (See chart below).
While it’s true that Agriculture is enjoying some record or near record dollar receipts for commodity goods, input costs are rising and thus need to be managed. Everything costs more these days. From fuel to food, no one can escape all the rising costs.In this economy, we should all be challenged to find what the best buy is for the dollar and match purchases to our needs, goals and objectives.
I recently had a visit with a 20+ year veteran of the livestock premix business. He told me his customers seem to be just as profitable, or more so, when feed costs are high. I’m sure that statement would open up a lot of argument, but there may be some interesting perspectives before jumping to any conclusions. One of which may be that fine tuning and optimizing nutrition for the best return on investment would make sense when profit opportunities are highest (high market value of cattle) or when managing overall high input costs.