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Getting real with cattle

published: May 27th 2022
by: Dr. Joe C. Paschal

“Getting Real With Cattle” was the title assigned to me by Michael Kuck, my former student and manager the Luling Foundation for their 95th Annual Field Day last week. Actually, Bonnie Dredla came up with it to make it fit the other presentations addressing the interesting times we live in. I gave it outside using some notes I made the week before and in case you were not there to listen to me in person, I thought I would pass along the salient points here.
    If anyone had made any business plans before the last 12 months, those might be in total disorder at present. Prices for the three “F’s”, feed, fertilizer and fuel have increased significantly. Certainly, a large part is due to the crisis in Ukraine, lingering effects of Covid on trade and transportation and rising rate of inflation.
    Every year I have written a business plan, an outline of what I am doing and what I plan to accomplish (or try). Each year I review it, make changes as needed and review the profitably of specific activities in the long term.
    One of the big areas I work on is the carrying capacity of the ranch. How many head (actual cows and their calves plus bulls) can graze on it from one year to the next without doing harm to the forage or the land? This can and does change from year to year with rainfall. When it is dry it needs to be reduced. I try to maintain about 75% of my average or normal carrying capacity.
    Some actions seem to only be costs, since they are preventative in nature, herd health expenses for example and the costs of soil and hay testing. There are purchases of feed, hay, fertilizer, and herbicide that offset each other but have to be justified. How much fertilizer or herbicide can be applied at current prices? A soil test helps me make that decision. What is the feed value of the hay purchased (in my case) or made and how can it be used? Hay tests help reduce feed costs.
    I review the performance of the cows, which ones calved when I wanted them to calve (fall or spring) and did they calve in the 75 day window and did they bred back. If calving and weaning percentage is about 90% then you could afford to run fewer cows at less expense and potentially more profit.
    I discussed some other points to consider but these have the biggest impacts on my profitability.

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