Winning All Three Ways: Optimize Production, Sell at a Premium, Reduce Costs

Chris Penrose, Associate Professor and Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, OSU Extension

As beef producers, some of us get into a mentality of either improving production, seeing how much we can sell our animals for, or reducing costs with improved forage utiliization. I have been working with a producer for ten years to help improve his forage utilization and he has been working to improve the genetics of his herd through his breed association. He continues to improve his herd through A.I., has identified his mineral needs, has a regular vaccination schedule and has recently purchased his first donor cow. He has excellent records, weighs calves on a regular basis, knows his feed conversion rates for each calf that is weaned, body condition scores his cattle and tries to sell his feeder calves to a buyer that realizes the genetic potential (for a higher price) and even receives back carcass data when processed. His herd is now almost large enough to sell the calves by the semi load. He once told me his goal was to make $1000/calf (he was very close this year). He continues to improve production and is trying to sell his calves at a premium.

I visited his farm last week and he is about to start feeding his stockpiled grass. Yes, he is just starting! How can that be? Do you have neighbors that may have some open land not being used? This is common in Southeast Ohio. As a general rule, this producer will take off a first cutting of hay off a neighbor, let it grow then in late summer, wean calves, move a group of cows to that farm (could be bred heifers, first or second calf cows, or mature cows), then he will stockpile his own farm for winter grazing and prepare for calving season. He now only takes off one cutting of hay (you could take off two cuttings), stockpiles the field for winter grazing and reduces his baled hay needs. After estimating dry matter in the stockpiled forages, there may be enough to make it through the winter (although he has first cut hay stored if needed). The point is, he found an opportunity and took advantage. If open land is not available, is something else such as corn stalks?

He told me that he has developed “a program.” He has built his herd that now has some of the best genetics in the country, has become much more productive and sold heavy calves at a premium. He is also doing a tremendous job at reducing feed costs. I am sure he will feed hay at some point, but unless we ice over or experience heavy snow, it will be a while. My point is, this producer is trying to win all three ways: improving production, selling at a premium and reducing costs. Individually we may each be good at one or two of these areas and not as good in another. If we can improve where we need to the most, I think our bottom line will rise.