Ag business expert says cattle producers should start by evaluating their herd

Heading into winter, working to lower production costs is a wise choice for cattle producers around the Ozarks. A little preparation now can save a lot of headaches later.

The recent dry spell is an appropriate reason for herd evaluation and thorough culling decisions. 

“Heading into winter, most of Southwest Missouri is either in drought, or abnormally dry. Producers need to think about how they are going to cost effectively get their animals through the coming winter,” Wesley Tucker, field specialist in agricultural business with the University of Missouri Extension, explained. “This should start with a long, hard look at the animals they currently have. Preg checks should be performed, and any animals not pulling their weight should be immediately culled.” 

COVID-19 has contributed to changes in cull cow prices. Tucker explained that cull cow prices have been stronger than normal this year because of greater demand for ground beef. 

“As consumers ate more meals at home which they prepared themselves, they used more hamburger,” he said. Tucker advised producers to take advantage of the current market before prices tumble. 

Taking stock of available feed resources and what is needed for winter is another management strategy to lower production costs. This will help producers make the most cost effective choice on what to purchase ahead of time, instead of waiting until it is an emergency and making a hasty choice without evaluation. 

“Can additional forage be purchased, and if so, is it cost effective to do so or can grain be fed cheaper? It is also important to utilize what grass they may have left as effectively as possible. Strip grazing improves the grazing efficiency tremendously. It’s a long time till spring, we need to stretch our limited resources as far as possible,” Tucker said.  

Cultivating an adaptable mindset can help producers make appropriate choices to lower production costs. 

Tucker advised producers to adjust their systems to promote better flexibility. 

“Grazing the maximum number of cows each year leads to shortages every few years as we are plagued with drought. However, by reducing the number of full-time mouths to feed and augmenting the operation with a stocker enterprise, gives more flexibility and allows the operation to adjust to both dry and flush years,” he explained. “Also, every operation should have disposable animals on hand that can be marketed when the first signs of drought begin to appear. All too often we limit our farm’s ability to adjust and adapt because we lock ourselves into a certain mindset.”


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