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Planning for a better tomorrow

Goal setting… it’s a somewhat painful, but useful tool when you want to focus on a particular aspect of your life, work or production system. Setting production goals can be beneficial for cattle producers as it can assist with culling and buying decisions, in addition to herd health and nutrition programs.

I recently lead a goal setting session with a group I’m a member of outside of work. We listed the successes and hurdles we had in the past year before attempting to write goals. It’s important to take time to list a few of each, as it is difficult to know where you’re going, if you’re not sure where you’ve been. Keep the list short, 2 or 3 of each, to not get bogged down. Focus on what you feel is most important to your operation and where you want to be.

Now that you have your list of successes and hurdles, it’s time to set your goals. Pick a success and a hurdle and write a goal around each. Keep the goals S.M.A.R.T.; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound; and add a few action points as well. Successes and hurdles that you choose to focus on should be those that can most impact your production goals. Maybe it’s those affecting income or those that seem to be a time drain. Regardless, don’t let your list of goals get so long that you have to write goals to attain you goals.

So how does this all relate back to cattle?  Let’s take a look at a fictional commercial cow herd. The top success is that the calving period was shortened from 90 days to 63 days this past year. Great record keeping notes the following changes that were made: culled the late calving cows, despite the quality of their calves, focused a little better on bull nutrition and changed the supplement to one with a higher trace mineral pack with chelates (CRYSTALYX® Breed-Up®). While that is a laundry list, it’s good to document what was done, so it can be continued in the following years.

Goal: To maintain the 63 day calving season for 2015.

Action Plan:

  1. Order the same supplements to have on hand 60 days prior to calving and through rebreeding
  2. Monitor cow body condition score (BCS) to keep them near a BCS 5 prior to breeding
  3. Monitor the BCS of the bulls year around to keep them between a 4 and 5
  4. Perform a breeding soundness exam 30 days prior to turn out on all bulls
  5. Maintain culling criteria

The biggest hurdle in this herd is getting heifers bred, as they have a 75% pregnancy rate. The heifers are bred earlier than the cows, to keep them in the new 63 day window. Looking at heifer records, we see that heifers that are lighter or have a BCS of 7 or higher tend to be the ones that are open. It’s also important to note that the same development program has been in place for the past 3 years.

Goal: To improve the pregnancy rate on heifers to 85% for 2015.

Action Plan:

  1. Monitor body condition score on heifers to have them at a 5 or 6 at breeding
  2. Re-evaluate heifer development program
    • Consider dividing into heavy and light groups
    • Over conditioned heifers would be moved to the heavy group
    • Consider adding a supplement with an ionophore (CRYSTALYX® Iono-Lyx™)
  3. Continue to breed heifers ahead of cow herd

Setting goals for your operation can be just as easy as noted above. Keep your goals S.M.A.R.T., if it’s too involved and complicated, you’re less likely to follow through. Keep your action plans simple and assign tasks and set deadlines. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask outside sources for opinions. There are times that it’s beneficial to invite fresh ideas from someone removed from the situation. The CRYSTALYX® nutrition staff is more than willing to assist you with your production goals. Your success is our success.

For information on CRYSTALYX® products and producer tools, visit our website at crystalyx.com.