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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