Press-Republican

Columns

November 10, 2013

Rounding up the profit

There’s an old saying: “Another day, another dollar.”

Whether you are spending it or making it, every dollar is crucial in the long-term sustainability of your farm operation. In the beef business, there are a lot of dollars left unrealized for a myriad of reasons. While raising beef cattle is done by many small farmers as a hobby, there is no reason not to try to maximize your potential return.

A recent speaker at one of our beef meetings offered an amusing comparison. He said your beef farm can either be an entertainment center or it can be a profit center. I’d like to think that it could be both.

If you are running a cow-calf operation, there are many ways of adding value to your calf crop that will return far more than the cost. Firstly, breed for and raise a calf that fits the market you have decided to enter. A lot of folks put a lot of emphasis on the breed of cattle, but you should really want to find a cow that will thrive on the conditions on your farm and breed her for a calf that will sell for the best price.

If the current feeder calf market is looking for black cattle, why not breed your cows to an Angus bull to have black calves? Not only can you keep your cow herd of choice, but the resulting cross-bred calves will generally grow faster due to heterosis, commonly called hybrid vigor.

Breed your cows to calve in a four-to-six-week period. A group of uniformly sized calves will be more attractive to a buyer who wants to fill a trailer fast. Even a group of five will generally bring more than a single calf.

With proper record keeping, you can decide when to introduce the bull and remove him four to six weeks later. Cows that don’t breed can be identified and culled from the herd. Analysis has shown that a cow that does not wean a calf will never recover the economic loss. Even if the loss is not her fault, if profitability of the farm business is a primary objective, she should be culled.

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