I can give you advice. Your friends can show you what’s working on their ranch. You can read articles and learn from your local team of experts—extension specialists, veterinarians, nutritionists and so on.
But when it comes down to it, you’re the one who needs to make the decisions. You have to determine what’s right for your cowherd.
Some decisions need to be “split second.” When you have to figure out which way to dart to keep that feisty cow from breaking out of the group; when you’ve got to say “yay” or “nay” on a set of replacements going for a little more than you expected at the auction; when an extra minute means life or death because you did or didn’t call the vet during a calving predicament—it’s then that you have to make your mind up fast.
Other times you have the luxury, and burden, of a little more thoughtful introspection. When you’re picking a breeding philosophy and genetics for your herd, that’s a time that deserves more consideration than the honed instincts useful to contain a bolting bovine.
Yet, the decision still lies with you. Not everything is black and white. In fact, most important decisions involve gray risk, because there are nearly always several elements to consider. Profit potential has to be a motivator.
Everyone gives you advice on how to raise your cattle, what breed or breeds you should pick, and how you should implement that breeding strategy. But if you just look at what will net you the most dollars with the fewest “head aches,” it could be a pretty clear choice.
I ask a lot of ranchers across the country about their breeding programs. Many have established it through decades of trial and error. Some of them even say it’s taken several generations of ranchers to come to a system that they’re still improving on today. Quite often I hear, “Well, Grandpa started out...” and then they describe all of the decisions that have led them to where they’re at on that day.
Some of them talk about a neighbor who paved the way with something revolutionary for the time, or they credit a specific seedstock supplier for helping them develop their program. Others came back from college with a new idea to try to implement and still others admit they were about the last in their country to make a switch to what works today.
Whatever their route as they introduced different genetics, and focused on a new set of traits or a different breed, the road still goes back to that same point of origin: they had to make the decision. Almost always, it came back to dollars.
There’s a quote I’ve heard many times as producers tell their stories. Maybe it’s become a cliché now, but it takes a core of solid truth for any words to reach that level of familiarity: “It doesn’t cost any more to raise a good one than it does a bad one.”
Of course the route to raising those good ones depends on the controls in your hands. Happy deciding. — Miranda Reiman
(“Black Ink” is a cattle management column written by Steve Suther and Miranda Reiman of Certified Angus Beef. The column is not designed for strictly Angus producers, and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of WLJ or its editorial staff.)