In an effort to evaluate this change in management, a review was conducted comparing overall performance of the center’s herd for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011(mid-March calving) to the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 (mid-May calving).
So let’s start. Well, the weather is nice in most areas, and the traditional calving time of March and April is fast approaching. The busiest dates will be late in the first week of April, with most cow/calf producers starting in mid-March. If I had to pick a historical start date, it would be March 15.
That being said, producers still have reasons to select bulls based on traits that are not readily available nor in the breed databases. Interestingly, no one ever bluntly denies the use of data, but one most certainly can sense a presence of denial at times.
Every winter, I do enjoy visiting with producers regarding upcoming bull purchases and offer a workshop titled “Bull Buying by the Numbers” to help producers get a better understanding of what the numbers mean. Participation is geared to help individual producers streamline their bull-buying strategies to meet their individual goals and objectives.
Two major improvements this year are ease of use and simplicity of use. Some repetition is involved, especially in going back to breeders one previously has purchased bulls from and the progeny performed up to expectation. The information available continues to gain depth and expands through the many breed databases.
The process of determining the better bull brings good discussion and requires homework. Why? Simply put, years—if not decades— of visual selection based on how cattle look is the foundation of almost all breeding programs. For years, visual selection and pedigree review have been the status quo when buying bulls.
One fairly new addition to sire summaries is a selection index, available from several breed associations. The selection index allows a producer to select bulls based on multiple traits through a single expected progeny difference (EPD) value. The selection index EPD value can meet maternal cow/calf selection or terminal beef production objectives.
Let’s change the cow size discussion to a bull size discussion. Generally, the cow herd genetics are changed through the purchase of bulls. On average, genes from an individual calf are as follows: Half come from the sire, one-fourth comes from the maternal grandsire and one-fourth comes from the maternal grand dam.
So often, we simply add the words “net profit” and continue. But are not our lives greater than the coins in our pockets? As food producers, we are keepers of others, providers for those without. Like nature and the seasons, we need to ponder potential change within the world.
Using crop aftermath and late-season dry forage can cut production costs; however, this can result in consequences. Cows need to receive a balanced ration to halt poor performance or even the loss of condition.
This concept is an outcome from the question, “When should I calve?” For the past four years, the center has calved on grass. Initially, the May- and June-born calves at the center were weaned at the traditional early November dates, held in confinement pens for up to a month and then put back out on winter paddocks and supplemented.
At the Dickinson Research Extension Center, cattle are worked quite frequently because we need to collect data for research projects. But, as the center has shifted from intensive cattle production to extensive cattle production, certain managerial questions arise.
Paperwork and processes were developed to assure cattle verification by a unique animal identification number as cattle moved along the market chain. As the animal went further down the marketing chain, pressure mounted to assure compliance with the original intent of the animal purchase.
Sometimes I think I’m an average beef consumer. But then in the grocery store checkout line, as I put my items on the conveyer I realize my purchases rarely contain any meat. Not unlike many in the ag community, my family has a deepfreeze full of protein, so during normal weeks we’re dipping into that supply daily.
Cows are labor-intensive, and a slip on ice, a sick spell or the many variations of life can have significant impact on the labor force involved with the cow herd. As the owner or manager, a longterm cattle-handling plan needs to be in place in case of unexpected change.
By considering the 2014 calf prices abnormally high, budgeting for the future is challenging as prices drop. Budget development is challenging, but cost cutting is even more challenging. The actual implementation of a conservative budget, regardless of business is never pleasant.
Recent discussions of costs and output in the beef cow industry need some of that pondering. As I ponder the concepts that make up the statement “Costs are going up, production is stagnant and prices are falling,” lots of thoughts come up. In this ever-increasing cost environment, let’s talk about production.