8 ways to maximize cattle profits | Living the Country Life
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8 ways to maximize cattle profits

Get a plan in place to minimize cattle input costs and maximize profit.
  • Have a plan

    With higher feed, seed, fuel and fertilizer costs, beef producers need to consider alternative approaches to feeding and managing their herds. "They need to make sure they have a feeding and management plan in place to minimize feed costs, optimize herd performance and maximize profit," says Ron Lemenager, Purdue Extension beef management specialist. Here are 8 ways to get started.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 1, 2012
    Tags: Cattle, Cows, Calves, Feed
  • Cull the herd

    Feed costs represent between 60-75% percent of the annual cost of keeping a cow. Lemenager says the annual cost to keep a cow can exceed $500 per cow and could be as high as $700 in some operations. "Feed costs are going to be high, so producers must make plans now on how to get through the winter, and one strategy is to cull unproductive cows," he said. "Cows that are open, cows that are old and arthritic, and cows that are not going to produce heavy weaning weight calves that will allow you to pay the cow's way next year need to be culled," Lemenager says.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 1, 2012
    Tags: Cattle, Cows, Calves, Feed
  • Extend forage supplies

    Lemenager explains that by extending the grazing season, you can carry cows into winter and reduce the winter feed costs from harvested forages and supplemental feeds. Getting rid of non-productive cows in the summer will also will help to extend the grazing season by allowing more acres to be available later in the fall and on into the winter feeding period.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 1, 2012
    Tags: Cattle, Cows, Calves, Feed
  • Consider alternative feed

    When forage supply is low, alternative feeding strategies must be considered. Grazing crop residues like corn stalks and wheat straw can reduce cost and conserve hay. Corn stalk grazing can provide 30-60 days of grazing depending on soil types and rainfall. The key to grazing corn stalks is to monitor body condition. If cows start losing weight and condition, more supplementation is needed. When it comes to protein supplements, corn by-products (distiller's grains or corn gluten feed, pictured here) can be used to meet not only the dietary protein needs, but also provide some additional dietary energy.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 1, 2012
    Tags: Cattle, Cows, Calves, Feed
  • Have forages tested

    "I would highly recommend that producers test forages," Lemenager says. "If you underfeed cows you're going to sacrifice performance, and if you overfeed cows it's going to cost a whole lot more money. Target the needs of the cow -- not over, not under." Once you know the nutritional value of the base feeds, then you can work with an Extension professional to help put together a ration that will meet the production needs of your cow herd and production goals. Typically this means utilizing feeds that are high in one or more nutrient categories (energy, protein, vitamins, minerals) that the forage is not meeting.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 1, 2012
    Tags: Cattle, Cows, Calves, Feed
  • Evaluate and body-condition score cows

    It's also important for producers to body-condition score their cows, Lemenager points out. "It's a pretty good indicator of where your cows are nutritionally," he says. "If you start to see cows slide in body condition, then you need to add some additional energy or protein or other nutrients to make sure they stay at the level of production you want."

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 1, 2012
    Tags: Cattle, Cows, Calves, Feed
  • Get the most value possible from calves

    It's also important to maximize the value of the calves, Lemenager said. "If you haven't weaned your calves and marketed them yet, think about how to maximize the value of those calves by talking with potential buyers," he says. "If they want preconditioned calves, then think about preconditioning. If they want heavier weight calves, then maybe you should background those calves for a while. The point is, don't take a discount on your calves if you can help it. Minimize your discounts, and if you have the opportunity to take a premium, that's great."

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 1, 2012
    Tags: Cattle, Cows, Calves, Feed
  • Consider value-added marketing

    Knowing production costs and then marketing cattle rather than simply selling them is critical. Marketing is all about working in advance to make as many bidders interested in your cattle as possible. Selling is about expecting buyers to be interested enough in your calves to bid, rather than you wondering why they didn't. Pooling calves with another producer into larger, more uniform groups might be an option. Working with a feedlot to sell calves direct, or possibly retaining all or partial ownership through the feedlot might also be options.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 1, 2012
    Tags: Cattle, Cows, Calves, Feed
  • Differentiate your product

    There are many opportunities to differentiate your product and reach for the top of the market ranges, but you need a well designed and implemented marketing plan. Cattle reputation, past performance history, seasonal timing, a certified vaccination program, and adding more pounds after weaning become important factors to consider. These are true whether you're utilizing an auction sale, video market, direct trade, forward contract or retained ownership. The name of the game is marketing and planning ahead.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 1, 2012
    Tags: Cattle, Cows, Calves, Feed
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