A Time for Reflection

John Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

The holiday season is upon us as Christmas and New Years are rapidly approaching. While many of us can get caught up in holiday get-togethers and shopping for a perfect gift for that special someone, it is important that we remember the real reason for the Christmas and celebrate it in a manner appropriate for your family and beliefs. The New Year’s holiday gives us an opportunity to reflect on the events of the past year and enjoy the possibilities that lay ahead in 2015.

The end of 2014 also gives beef producers a chance to reflect on the impact of the past year on their operations and what can be improved upon in the coming year. This year will undoubtedly be remembered as a historically positive year for sales of all classes of beef cattle. Prices for beef cattle reached levels that could not be reasonably anticipated. I hope you were able to capitalize on the current cattle economy as much as possible this year.

Many have questioned about how long these exciting times will last for the beef industry. Nobody can be certain how long these historically high prices will last. We certainly can’t become complacent and assume that it is always going to be easy to sell animals at these price levels. My advice is to do what you can to take full advantage of the current situation and to make improvements that can carry you forward for years to come.

Take some time to analyze your current beef production enterprise and look for areas improvement. Just because you are selling animals for record high doesn’t mean that you are not leaving money on the table. I understand that the average cow-calf operation in Ohio numbers less than 17 cows and many producers also have an off-farm job. However, cattle are simply too valuable of an asset not to treat this enterprise with an appropriate level of management to improve profitability.

Consider some of the following management decisions as potential moves that can make an immediate impact on your herd’s productivity.

– You can’t take advantage of historically high prices for beef cattle if you don’t have the animals to sell. Use the proven management practices that can help you to improve conception rates, minimize calving difficulties, and increase the percentage of calf crop weaned.

– Cull open or any other unproductive animals with issues relating to disposition, udders, structure, performance, etc. Replace them by purchasing younger, bred females.

– Evaluate the genetics in your herd to determine if they are allowing you to meet your production goals. Utilize the breeds and genetics within a breed that will help you achieve your goals. If you are falling short of these goals, don’t be afraid to make changes.

– Are there management practices not being implemented in your operation because of a lack of equipment or facilities? Improving facilities can improve the quality of life for our animals and simplify daily chores for the producer.

– Forages are the single most important feedstuff consumed by beef cattle. Increase forage quality and quantity produced from pasture and hay fields in order to maximize the pounds of beef produced per acre in your operation. Minimize feeding and storage losses associated with this valuable product.

2014 certainly was an exciting year for beef cattle producers. As good as this year has been, challenge yourself to make improvements in your operation to make 2015 even better with your beef enterprise.