On the Blog

Keeping cows longer with CRYSTALYX®

It’s not often talked about but is understood that cows, like equipment, do depreciate. Like the old John Deere 3010 tractor that’s still running, there’s probably a few very old cows still in the herd. I’ve had more than one rancher tell me how proud they are of old number so-and-so that has had 15 calves or a cow that lived to be 20+ years old. While this is likely the exception on most operations, old tractors that keep running and old cows that keep raising calves each year have probably had good care in life. Longevity in machinery or in livestock doesn’t necessarily happen by accident.

The average cow age by the time she’s left the herd by some reports is surprisingly young. If cull rates are roughly 10%-15%, the average age of the cow in the herd is roughly 6 -8 years old. Be mindful as well that a cows’ productive years didn’t start until she was already 2, so, in this case the average cow only raises about 5 calves.

 

Cow depreciation is simply a math equation:

Purchase or development price – Salvage Value

Number of Calves Raised

There’s only about 3 ways to influence this equation and that’s to change each variable, especially the denominator. The surest way to decrease depreciation is to keep cows around longer and get more calves from each one.

Altering purchase price and salvage value is really a marketing strategy but nutrition can influence the development cost.  

Influencing the number of calves raised is a genetic, animal husbandry and nutritional strategy.

Using current average bred heifer values and salvage cull cow values, the depreciation cost for a cow that raised 5 calves would be: (1700-660) / 5 = $208 per year.

How can CRYSTALYX® alter the cow depreciation equation?

  1. Develop cost effective replacements
    About 3 years ago I wrote a blog on low cost replacement heifer development using CRYSTALYX® supplements. The take home message was to develop heifers modestly and select for fertility, meaning heifers that breed on a modest development or input program and breed early in the season will typically continue to breed and calve early throughout their productive lifetime. These heifers can be developed at a relatively low cost on a CRYSTALYX® program. And heifers like these can add longevity to the cow herd and help add to the bottom part of the depreciation equation meaning more calves raised.

  2. Keep cows in good body condition
    CRYSTALYX® is designed for this. It’s fed to promote better forage utilization that aides in keeping cows in good shape on a wide variety of fall and winter feeding programs. Cows that calve in adequate body condition breed back timelier and at greater percentages. This reduces cull rates and depreciation as well.

  3. Nutrition for better health
    Cows kept on a good plane of nutrition will have healthier calves meaning less death loss and more calves being raised, not to mention healthier calves from the start will always outperform calves from less than average programs. 


Why do cows leave the herd?

Most cows leave the herd due to poor fertility. It’s tragic to have what we thought was a good replacement heifer and eventually a good cow, fail to re-breed as a 2 or 3-year-old cow. These scenario’s make for a very high cow depreciation cost. Other reasons for culling include; bad feet, udders and disposition. A lot of this can be blamed on genetics and one could argue that with better replacement heifer selection, less culling down the road for these other than breeding problems would occur. Additionally, a small percentage of cows leave or die for a freak reason or injury (like getting killed by lightning).

A lot of management and nutrition decisions can affect depreciation. It’s the 2nd largest cost after feed or pasture rent in most cow-calf systems. Calving season is a good time to evaluate your cow herd and make some initial culling decisions. It’s also a critical time to be sure that adequate supplement is being provided. Good nutrition provided via numerous CRYSTALYX® programs can help in a lot of ways. The overall goal is to keep the cows around longer and get more calves from each one. Just like being proud of old cows and old tractors, producers should even be prouder of a healthy and thriving calf crop each spring. Let CRYSTALYX® do some work for you!