Perhaps one is somewhat handicapped in the beef business without a marketing background. Marketing information is continuous and certainly needed. There are processes that allow producers to cover market risk, and given the center’s recent $300 losses in feeding cattle, one comes to appreciate those risk processes.
The Dickinson Research Extension Center (REC) had three pens of yearling steers. One pen (A) was harvested when the steers were 18.1 months old. The next pen (B) was harvested when the steers were 21.4 months old and the last pen (C) was harvested when they were 22.
The points made in the saying are very true. Anyone who has a fence certainly must ponder why all the effort is being made in keeping a fence. Frost notes the difficulty of maintaining a fence as the forces of nature beat upon the structure.
One item that always sticks in my mind was a demonstration at one of the incident command trainings that center personnel attended. Sheri, the presenter, asked for someone to come forward to participate and started handing tennis balls to Sam, the volunteer.
Perhaps a discussion in broader terms would provide some background. Cattle are no different than other living creatures. They are a highly refined and well-organized package of living cells. These cells each have a function and must and will do what is expected for the lifetime of the cow.
Do not assume a good, solid handshake and slap on the back means top dollar was achieved in marketing this year’s calves. Public auction barns and other competitive markets certainly will do their best to get the best value for the calves presented. However, producers need to do their part as well.
The same as having cardiac pads available in human environments, cattle operations should have quick access to a veterinarian for consultation and care in this situation. The two probable causes that came to mind were ketosis (sometimes confused with milk fever at calving) and hypomagnesaemia tetany (commonly called grass tetany or grass staggers).
The unpruned plant probably will look long and scraggly with a few flowers on it. The pruned plant will look robust and full of new leaves and additional flowers. Good gardeners spend all summer snipping, pinching and pruning their selected plants to make them more vigorous, full and gorgeous.
The ranch discussion focuses on the occasional problems. Problems always will crop up, but when work, time off and sleep are balanced, people make better decisions. Those improved decisions make for fewer complications and better outcomes, so there is a better work environment.
The flashback put me in the seat of an International 806 tractor with no cab, pulling a John Deere combine with a long-forgotten model number. The field was an average field of barley with the windrows running west to east. A strong wind was blowing from the west and the day was a typical hot, late-afternoon harvest day.
As the calving season winds down, check the calving book. Count the number of cows that calved within 21 days from when the third mature cow calved. After that, check the number that calved the next 21 days and the next 21 days. Keep counting until you get to the end of the calving book.
Missed breeding opportunities are expensive because the next opportunity only comes around again in three weeks. Bulls need to have structural soundness and physical stamina to breed and conceive calves on a daily basis throughout the breeding season. No excuses need be made for questionable bulls.
The contrast was stark, but there was a beautiful point. Life survives. In the world of beef production, baby calves need to survive inclement weather with minimal intervention. The desire to survive, seek that first drink and dry place to bed down, and to bond quickly with mother are desires that come from genes that kick in at birth.
We know that calf death will occur. However, that does not mean we accept the death of a calf. Instead, we see it as a challenge to our management abilities. The recent cold spells and spring snows are a challenge for those who chose to have their cows calve early or, for all practical purposes, at the traditional calving time.
Regardless of current net returns, the goal of increasing net returns in the cattle operation is always commendable. For those who are struggling with negative net returns, the increase should move the cow/calf operation in a positive direction and provide enough additional dollars to remain in business.
In anticipation of this spring’s summaries of agricultural enterprises provided by the North Dakota Farm Management Program (NDFM, at ndfarmmanagement.com), I have been reviewing previous numbers. Data also are available on the FINBIN website at finbin.
To start, producers can sit down and review their own records. However, if history means anything, the evaluation of records is not simple, so the producer ends with the records set aside because numerous production articles and catalogs seem more interesting.
The cattle business is a fairly conservative business that is operated by fairly conservative people. As risk-takers in a highrisk environment, those in the cattle business have learned that conservative management seems to keep the operation around longer.
The bull-buying season certainly is here, and I hope those who need some good replacement bulls are busy shopping. Like a good ice pond with way too many ice houses loaded with fishermen, who gets the fish (in this case, the bull) takes luck and good planning.