On the Blog

Cattleman: What's in your future and what's in the past?

There are lots of clichés out there that deal with yesterday, today and tomorrow.  We have 20-20 hindsight for yesterday, and usually a good idea of what is going on today.  Most anyone could retire young, if you could predict tomorrow.  While tomorrow or next week is very hard to predict, some trends you can recognize from years past, can give you a decent estimate of the years ahead.  That may be the gist of the quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  In the feed business, a common quote that we all fear from a customer is “That is the way my Dad always did it.”  There is much of great value to be learned from our forefathers, but, the latest Technology in Agriculture is probably not one of them.  

In April Dr. Dan Dhuyvetter had a couple blogs that looked at the changes in the beef cow-calf industry over the last 10 to 20 years.  Much of that information came from a website called FinBin.  FinBin is a Farm Financial Database collected from producers who use FinPack farm financial planning and analyses software. It can be accessed at http://www.finbin.umn.edu/ and is supported by the University of Minnesota.  I used this interactive site to compare 2012 to 2002.  Some of that information is in the chart below. 

There are probably no real big surprises in this data, especially when we remember that the Summer and Fall of 2002 was very dry, for the area the data is collected from.  But, here a couple trends that I feel are worth mentioning:

  1. Estimated labor hours per unit are down 27%
  2. Cows per FTE (Full Time Equivalent) are up 37%
  3. Pregnancy, weaning and calving percentage are unchanged (they actually went backward slightly).

Numbers 1 and 2 are telling us the same thing.  Today, you need more cows per person to survive and make a comfortable living.  If this trend dares to continue, your future only contains more cows to manage and feed, per person employed.  Sooner or later it may not be feasible to start up a tractor or pick-up truck each day to feed your cows (hand-fed supplements).  Many operations are already there.  Until genetically modified forages which contain enough protein, energy, trace minerals and vitamins are the norm (and accepted), self-fed supplements (low cost, low labor, low capital outlay) are the best answer for the trends evident in #1 and #2

Number 3 seems to indicate we have reached a point at which progress is hard to come by.   These numbers are averages, so some operations are above and below those numbers.  Therefore, improvement is still theoretically possible.  But just maintaining those averages is not simple.  You will need to continually manage nutrition, health, genetics, and the overall management of your operation itself, just to tread water, let alone make progress.  Here again, a well-fortified and appropriate self-fed supplement can be a key part of your nutritional program to maintain optimal reproductive performance of your herd for years to come.

CRYSTALYX® Brand self-fed supplements are an excellent way to maximize your returns from a supplement program that’s available 24/7, while minimizing your investment in time, labor and equipment.  And I predict those benefits will keep you in pace with the future of the cow-calf industry.