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All I want for Christmas: A cow’s perspective

The holiday season is a good time to reflect upon the past year.  We might ask ourselves, what went wrong, right, what we’d do again, and what we learned not to do.  2012 was a challenging year in many respects.  No doubt the drought was the most challenging and a news making event.  It will be a large factor in shaping our industry for the next several years.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the negatives but there is some good news, or at least things to be thankful for. Winter has not taken a hard grip (at least not at the time of writing this) making it just a little easier to deal with limited feed resources and higher cost.  Yes, we in the feed and supplement business have been challenged by more production demand and in making feed programs more efficient but we are grateful to be in this business.    In addition, beef cattle prices have remained solid.  Sure, there have been some ups and downs and production costs have been rising, but by in large the cow-calf producer will be profitable in 2012 and experts point to an optimistic 2013 given a little help from mother nature.  With all the above being said, if you were to ask a cow to reflect on 2012 and the Christmas season, she might write a letter to Santa Claus and I have a feeling it would go something like this:

Dear Santa,

Its dry and I’ve consumed low quality forage this past summer & fall.  I’ve got by okay due to some supplemental help.  I’ve not been naughty this year, I’ve been nice.  I’ve done my best to breed well, maintain body condition and even gained some because I’ve been fed CRYSTALYX® on the ranch this fall.  I’m sure some naughty cows in other places might not get any supplement this winter and will have to “just rough it.”  Maybe it’s because they think it costs too much.  I’m sure they will be sorry come calving or rebreeding time as they’ll have more problems.  The lump of coal in their stocking might be a trip to the sale barn next summer or fall.

 Again Santa, I’ve been more nice than naughty so some supplement like CRYSTALYX® would sure help again. It sounds like the calf market will be good next year and I’ll raise a good calf if I’m fed right.  I’ll also breed back, and do it early in the breeding season as to have a heavier calf to sell in 2014.  This will be even more likely if you allow me to have a good CRYTALYX® mineral program through the summer months, or a good fly control program too?  If you do this, I’ll be able to withstand the stresses of summer, especially if it’s dry again, and will be in good shape next fall.  In fact, I’ll be easier to feed next fall and winter if I’m taken care of this winter into spring and next summer.

Santa, my job is pretty simple.  I graze, get bred, calve, and nurse a calf.  If I can do it under budget and perform each year, I’ll stay on the ranch.  I do need some tools however and CRYSTALYX® fits well.  Thank you Santa and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  P.S.  Please send rain.

There are uncertainties in 2013 but the future is never fully clear.  We do know that Beef Cattle numbers and beef production will be lower in 2013.  This coupled with decent demand (certain or uncertain?) should translate into good beef cow-calf economics.  So if you look at supplementation like playing Santa Claus, I hope you think of your cows being more nice than naughty.  Take care of the cows that take care of you. Thank you Livestock Producers for allowing us to serve you and for your resilience in 2012.  We wish you success in 2013!