Record high fertilizer prices, above average feed prices, COOL, Curly Calf Syndrome, Proposition 2, and high fuel costs were the talk of the majority of 2008. Add in to the mix just one single word, recession, and it definitely was a roller coaster ride for most of the year. Many different sources indicate that 2009 is going to be a challenging year in the livestock industry. Is your cattle operation ready for that challenge? Have you looked back upon the things that went wrong or lost you money in 2008? Do you have a plan in place for 2009?
Change will also be a popular topic of discussion during the first part of 2009. For most, that will be in the form of a new president as well as new administration in the agricultural offices of Washington. This change will definitely have an impact on the entire country as well as the world. Will your cattle operation change due to this? It’s a big question that all livestock producers, not just the cattle industry, are asking themselves. In order to achieve success in 2009 in the cattle industry, it will most likely require some form of change on your operation. Perhaps that change will simply be by cutting back on the number of cows you manage, or decreasing the number of stockers. In the end though, your operation will achieve the desired success from these changes by becoming more efficient. Each operation can establish goals of efficiency and should every year, particularly for 2009.
Efficiency of any livestock operation can be viewed many different ways. There are calculations that can be made to determine efficiency. For example, for a cow that weighs 1,200 pounds and weans off a calf at 600, her efficiency could be considered at 50 percent. Efficiency can also be calculated as how many pounds of feed it takes to gain one pound of body weight.
Input costs are anticipated to be as high as or higher than last year. Margins of profit are projected to be lower at all segments of the cattle industry.
Top Ten Beef Operation Efficiency Tips for 2009
1. Cull any open cows.
2. Keep in mind that cows are typically the most efficient from ages 3-8.
3. Try to establish a breeding/calving season that lasts from 60-90 days.
4. Establish advanced grazing techniques such as strip grazing or rotational grazing for cow-calf pairs and stockers.
5. Determine exactly how much it costs you to make hay. Look at the current hay market for the region. If it costs you more money to make your hay than you can sell it on the open market, could you instead buy your hay and save money?
6. Look for alternative resources for feeding cattle. Products such as distiller’s grains and corn gluten feed can be incorporated into a mixed complete ration and can be very effective.
7. Determine what mature cow size is best for your operation. While a 1,200 pound cow is considered optimum for the industry, some operations are more efficient with 1,000 pound cows and others perform better with 1,400 pound cows.
8. Establish a health protocol. Sick calves result in reduced efficiency.
9. Have a Breeding Soundness Exam performed on all bulls.
10. Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to try something new or different. Consult with a professional first though.
William Doig is the new Regional Livestock Specialist for the University of Missouri Extension in Howell County.