Four Areas Beef Producers Should Assess In 2014

Higher cattle prices focus beef producers on herd productivity.

Published on: Jan 6, 2014

Beef cattle producers rang in the New Year coming off record high prices in December 2013. The possibility of tighter animal supply looming in 2014 keeps the idea of higher prices in the minds of beef producers. So, beef cattle producers must get the most out of their herd and business to tap into potential profits.

University of Missouri Extension beef specialist, Gene Schmitz, offers four areas beef producers should evaluate before getting to far into 2014. He focuses on herd productivity and beef business practices.

1. Evaluate whole-herd performance. Beef cattle producers who have sold the spring calf crop are in a position to evaluate whole-herd performance. A general assessment of beef cow herd productivity is to divide total weight of calves sold by the total number of cows exposed to bulls. This average pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed is a useful benchmark to assess current productivity and guide future management decisions.

PLAN NOW FOR 2014: Beef cattle producers should evaluate herd productivity to achieve profits. According to MU beef specialists, Gene Schmitz evaluation starts with assessing 2013 cow productivity and moves to planning for 2014 calf health.
PLAN NOW FOR 2014: Beef cattle producers should evaluate herd productivity to achieve profits. According to MU beef specialists, Gene Schmitz evaluation starts with assessing 2013 cow productivity and moves to planning for 2014 calf health.

2. Evaluate individual calf weight. Producers with individual calf weights can get much more specific production data on their cow herd, according to Schmitz. Actual weaning weights need to be adjusted for age of calf at weaning, cow age, and sex of the calf. Then direct comparisons of productivity between cows can be done, since calf performance variables are standardized. Beef producers can find standardized adjustment formulas are available from the Beef Improvement Federation or MU Extension livestock specialists. Schmitz says these comparisons assist with current culling decisions and breeding decisions next spring.

3. Plan for calving season. Schmitz says one way to secure profits this 2014 may be to keep calves healthy. He says a profit-robber for beef cattle produces can be scours in baby calves. Schmitz like the Sandhill's Calving System developed to combat scour outbreaks in baby calves.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

Prior to the start of the calving season, all cows are placed in a single pasture. Beginning two weeks after the first calves are born, all cows that have not calved are moved to a new pasture, he explains. Cows that have calved stay in the original pasture. After one week in the second pasture, all cows that have not calved move to a third pasture while cows that calved in the second pasture stay put. "The process of moving pregnant cows to new pastures continues on a weekly basis," he says. "Cows and calves remain in their original pastures until the youngest calves are four weeks old, then these groups can be co-mingled back together."

Schmitz says the system allows most calves to be born on clean pastures that have not been contaminated with scour causing pathogens from older calves. Most scour problems occur in calves 1 to 3 weeks old. Since calves are segregated by age and location, the time needed to track down and check the health condition of the calves is reduced.

4.Review rental or lease arrangements. Several resources are available to assist producers with this process. MU guide G302, "2012 Custom Rates for Farm Services in Missouri" may be helpful in determining the value of services. Extension ag business specialists have sample lease agreements available which may be helpful in developing arrangements satisfying all parties.

"Remember agreements should be in writing and signed by all parties involved," Schmitz adds.

Source: Ag Connection Newsletter