Longevity and Fertility are Profit Drivers for Cattle Operations

by Clifford Mitchell

Reblogged from Cattle Today

DSC_0094_6x4_72Producers in the 21st century beef industry come better prepared than ever before. Continued education programs and an abundance of online resources help cattlemen stay well informed. Record keeping practices have improved and cattlemen have a good handle on the costs associated with their operation.

Tightening margins have forced producers to further evaluate the management plan, running through many different scenarios to find the best production model. For some this was a real eye-opener, for others it reinforced the approach they were taking to manage the herd for a profit. A genetic base complete with a bundle of traits also played a key role in the success of the operation. Many cattlemen have argued with neighbors and colleagues until they were blue in the face over their point of view; however, most will agree longevity built into the female is a definite advantage for most outfits.

“Every year I can keep a cow it cuts my costs $1,500. Because that’s what it costs to get a female into production,” says James Henderson, Bradley 3 Ranch, LTD, Memphis, Texas.

Photo by Penny Bowie

Photo by Penny Bowie

“Operations have to be profit driven. Fertility is a good trait to have and will lead to a long life on many ranches, but females have to be productive. Make sure cows are able to live in your environment, breed back and do it profitably year after year,” says Dr. Robert Wells, Livestock Consultant, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

“Longevity is one of the reasons we have Brangus females. A lot of times you wouldn’t know that old cow, is not a six or seven year old, because she’s still milking well and raising a good calf,” says Adam Whitesell, Lockwood, Missouri. This operation maintains 600 to 650 Brangus females and retains ownership of the calf crop most years at Decatur County Feedyard in Oberlin, Kansas.

Cattlemen have been programmed into two schools of thought; either buy or raise the replacements that the operation needs. Costs are associated with each method; another big debate among cattlemen looking for the most profitable answers.

“I know it costs us something to get that heifer into production. I have never put a pencil to actual costs. When it’s time, we select our replacements they go to grass and the cull heifers go to the feedyard,” Whitesell says. “I would think a five-year-old after producing three calves would have paid for herself in our program.”

“The cost of a replacement will vary from one operation to the next depending on if heifers are home-raised or bought. The first thing producers need to do is maximize the salvage value of that cull cow,” Wells says. “Quality replacements, from a known source and bred to good calving ease bulls are costing any where from $1,000 to $1,200 in our current market. Most females, depending on the value of the calf she is producing, should pay for themselves by the time they are four or five years old.”

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“Just to break even in our operation a cow has to be six and produced four calves,” Henderson says. “According to my calculations, it costs me $1,500 every time I replace a cow. This includes feed, facilities, pasture, semen and labor. None of these things come without a cost.”

Care and handling of these replacements will bring genetics to the forefront when done right. Management could help these females lead long productive lives just by making the right decisions as they are introduced to the next stage in the production cycle.

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First Generation Producers: A Success Story

Photos and Story by Brittni Drennan
IBBA Communications Coordinator

If you have picked up the latest Jan/Feb issue of IBBA’s FRONTLINE Beef Producer, then you have seen the Jasik family featured on the cover of the publication. Just a few short years ago, this father and son partnership established “Jasik Hay Farms”, now a successful, family-owned commercial cattle operation. They breed their commercial cows to Brangus bulls and market Brangus Gold commercial replacement females. A first-generation farm, this young family has a refreshing perspective on the cattle industry.

Jasik Family The Jasik’s Story
There are a few producers in our demanding, competitive industry who inspire all of us to work harder, be more optimistic, and strive daily to achieve our goals while building integrity instead of just a product. These hardworking cattlemen were building fence with their fathers before they were old enough to go to school and driving tractors well before they had their license. They are those kind of producers whom you hold a high respect for. Meet the Jasik family.

Dustin grew up in the little quiet town of Pleasanton, Texas, where he learned all about the cattle business from his dad, Larry. Dustin worked alongside his dad and followed his every step. Everything Dustin knows about feeding cows, herd management, buying bulls and even fixing fence, he learned from his dad.

“My dad is my biggest influence. He raised me and he’s my best friend,” Dustin said. “We help and learn from each other. I guess that’s how we make it as partners.”

Larry and Dustin partnered to establish “Jasik Hay Farms”. They now run close to 500 Brangus cows for commercial production and have 1,300 acres for coastal hay production, but it was not a short road getting to that point. Dustin started his own business from scratch at age 14 when his dad helped him buy his first set of cows. Just three years later, he leased some land and bought 50 Brangus cows. Dustin, who solely through perseverance and hard work, built a successful business without having anything handed to him.

“If you’re starting from scratch, you have to start out small and grow from there,” Dustin said. “We started from nothing 18 years ago, and being a first generation farm sets us apart.”

Dustin’s biggest critic, he said, is his wife, Kate. The young couple met at a dance after Kate moved from Comfort to Pleasanton when she was 18. Kate was unfamiliar with the agriculture industry growing up, and had limited knowledge about the cattle business. Much like Dustin learned from his father, Kate learned from her husband and took new challenges head on.

“I didn’t know anything about cattle before I met Dustin,” Kate said. “He taught me everything I know. Now we just like to drive around and look at cattle on the farm together.”

Kate contributes significantly to the success of the business. While the guys are sorting cows, she examines the quality and helps with culling. With a smile on her face the size of Texas, Kate doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. She drives the tractor and helps harvest hay in the summer.

Kate also does the marketing work for the family business designing and placing advertisements, managing the website and publicizing the farm on Facebook. She said there are numerous advantages to using social media, and she uses several venues to publicize the family’s achievements and create awareness and publicity for their business. Using platforms such as Facebook directs people to their website and increases visibility. After advertising their big win in San Antonio last year, Kate said she saw an increase in traffic to their Facebook page and website.

“Social media is a source of free advertising that increases publicity without the cost of print advertising,” Kate said.

Other than exploiting Facebook and the farm’s website to increase interaction with customers, Kate is working on starting a blog. She said because more and more people are joining the social media movement, it is advantageous for producers to utilize these new tools to more effectively communicate with a new audience.

“I think there are a lot of younger people wanting to stay in the ag business but don’t have the resources. Advocacy draws people to our industry,” Kate said, “and our industry must keep up with the times and explore new ways to communicate with young people.”

Between feeding cows and helping her husband, Kate does not miss a beat even with a little one on her hip. The couple had a boy, Barin, in May 2011 and are proud to raise him on a farm learning the cattle business just like Dustin did.

“We live here on the farm and working together allows us to spend more time together,” Dustin said. “We get a lot of joy being able to raise our son on the farm and look forward to teaching him a lot.”

The Jasik family has faced difficult challenges just like other producers have recently. Dustin attributes their continued success to being self sufficient with their hay production and the quality of their Brangus cattle.

“We drive on quality in our replacement females. That’s what we raise and what we market,” Dustin said. “We’re not necessarily trying to grow in numbers. We focus on quality and strive to keep satisfied customers, raising what they want and need, and that’s heifers that will breed easily, milk well and handle well.”

Dustin mentioned several reasons why he breeds his commercial cows to Brangus bulls. He said the primary reason he likes Brangus is the breed’s ability to perform in the harsh South Texas climate. Brangus cows breed back more easily, are more docile, handle better and have very little udder problems from what Dustin has experienced. Additionally, he said they always seem to top the market without fluctuating.

“There’s a market for Brangus bull calves or female calves. Brangus adapt well to different climates, they’re hardy, good quality and good breeders with good mothering-ability,” Dustin said.

Dustin said he responds to their customers’ needs and continually focuses on improving quality. To ensure this high quality, Dustin and Larry enroll their females in the Brangus Gold program, a service provided by the International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA) that verifies Brangus genetics in commercial females.

“Having been using Brangus Gold for a year, [it] validates quality. The tags reassure our customers who are buying our replacement females that we’re breeding to registered Brangus bulls,” Dustin said.

The Jasiks take pride in the business they have built. They consider their biggest reward winning the San Antonio All-Breed Sale Overall Grand Champion in 2011. This was only the second time in the last 19 years that the Brangus breed received the title. They have also had several Breed Champion Brangus Bred Heifers and Pairs over the last eight years.

The Jasiks have an inspiring story to tell- one of tough challenges and many triumphs. Families like the Jasiks motivate us to work harder and live better.

“You can’t just give up the first dry spell you hit,” Dustin said. “You can’t give up because it will pay off in the end.”

Find out more about the Jasiks and their operation by visiting their website at www.jasikhayfarms.com.

“Where’s the Seedstock Sector Headed?”

The following article is an opinion piece written by Jacob Mayer on the Cattle Call blog.

A Look into my not so Crystal Ball

By Jacob Mayer

“However, one technology that all too often gets overlooked is beef cattle’s only free lunch – crossbreeding and heterosis. It could be the savior for breed associations as maintaining genetic diversity is critical to the long term success of beef…”

A while back I read a short article by Troy Marshall titled “Where’s the Seedstock Sector Headed?” The piece really got me thinking. Mr. Marshall complimented breed associations for their past successes, looked at the current challenges, and speculated on their role in the future. He also commented that he was opposed to the road the pork industry has taken, which has “rendered [swine breed associations] largely irrelevant.” Long before I had even finished reading, I said to myself, “Isn’t that exactly the direction we are headed?”  Why you ask, well here is why:

Trend #1: Small Number, Large Size: Doing more with less
Trend #2: Eating Inside: Individual animal welfare
Trend #3: Dressed in Black: Too much emphasis on hybrids?

Click here to continue reading the full article and find out more on these three trends. Feel free to comment and leave your opinions for discussion.

Will Cattlemen Restock After Drought?

“This drought is unprecedented- This drought sets into motion a whole new set of circumstances.”

– Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center in Denver 

Among those new circumstances is the thought that when producers do restock after it rains, they may initially come back with stockers instead of cows, to give them more agility in their pasture-management options. “We’re going to chase stocker animals and that’s going to change the stocker price dynamic.”

And, some ranches will come back with females. “It’s a heck of an opportunity to build genetic quality, and it’s a heck of an opportunity to have fall- and spring-calving herds as part of your operation.”

It’s a tremendous opportunity for cattlemen positioned with the right genetics and management to develop a replacement-heifer enterprise to supply those who are looking to restock. (See “Ten Reasons To Consider A Bred Heifer Enterprise”.)

Continue reading the full story at beefmagazine.com.

High Time for Heifers

-10 good reasons to expose more heifers over the next few years-

This week, beef packer JBS and Five Rivers Cattle Feeding hosted a group of large ranchers, scientists, seedstock operators and others to discuss ways to encourage heifer retention and herd expansion in the U.S. beef industry. Market signals favor expansion, but it is not happening because of drought, input prices, and other market trends.

In the short term, declining cattle supplies benefit producers with higher prices, but long-term, participants are concerned about losing market share and infrastructure.

“…there is huge opportunity for cow-calf profitability in coming years, and expansion is in the best interest to small and large producers.”

Click to read the full story.