the beginning of a new year, most of us make resolutions to better
ourselves and those that are around us. This is also an excellent time to
make new resolutions for your farm operation as well.
weather is cold and we are spending more time in the house or shop, take
this opportunity to develop a management plan for the coming year. Once
you have developed and implemented a cattle management plan, it will be
much easier to make decisions to improve the profitability of your herd.
are enjoying a strong cattle market, we can consider other ideas that
could lead to even more profits during the coming year. Once you have
decided to create a management program there are several areas that you
should pay close attention. Consider your management plan on the following
areas: nutrition, forage utilization, health, cattle selection, and record
keeping. We will cover each of these briefly to assist you in creating an
start by looking at cattle selection. Cattle selection is the beginning of
every management plan. If a producer does a poor job in cattle selection,
it makes all the other areas more difficult to manage. The biggest problem
I see in cattle selection continues to be consistency in the herd. If you
will be adding cattle or if you will be purchasing cattle in the coming
months please consider the following.
that match!!! Go into the market place with a visual of your current herd
and select cattle that will match your other cows. Too many times
producers select cattle that do not match once they get them on the farm.
cattle based upon body type, breed, color, quality and disposition. Cattle
that are close to the same type are much easier to manage than those that
look like a rainbow. Like cattle also will usually have similar needs and
demands, will produce similar calves and will allow you flexibility in
marketing your calves. Remember, "That one bad apple will ruin the
whole basket." Similar cattle will also have similar nutritional
demands and will make it easier to create a feeding supplementation
advantage of similar cattle selection is in the area of bull selection.
With like cattle, you can select a bull that will best fit the needs of
your cattle market. If you have made a decision to keep heifers, locate
them in a different pasture so you can manage them differently from your
mature cowherd. A reminder, when selecting cattle from a livestock
auction, pay close attention to detail such as disposition, udder
development, and reproductive performance. Other than herd saleouts, most
cattle are at an auction for a reason.
area for management consideration is record keeping. A good record keeping
system will save you money as well as assist you in cattle selection. A
good record keeping system will also help you to prepare for the National
Identification System that will be implemented throughout the country
during the coming months and years. A good record keeping system –
including identification, reproductive performance, calving problems,
weaning weights of calves, body condition scores, and health issues –
will give you the ammunition needed to cull poor performing cattle each
performing cattle will cost you money and the only way to recognize these
poor producers is with proper record keeping. For example: a cow that
calves every 14 months instead of 12 months will cost you an extra calf in
6 years. There are several good computer programs available for record
keeping as well as the old standby a pencil and notebook. Your local Co-op
can help you get started by providing ears tags and other methods of
vaccination and parasite control program is another area of cattle
management that is easily overlooked. I have been on several farms that
have suffered from poor reproductive performance as well as poor body
condition due to an inadequate health program. A proper health program is
used as a preventative while an improper health program is used as a cure.
A proper health program consists of internal and external parasite
control, reproductive vaccinations, and blackleg vaccinations. Other
vaccinations for problems such as warts and pinkeye are also available and
should be considered when working your cattle.
remember that it is imperative that you have a facility that will allow
you to work your cattle easily and safely. Again, your local cooperative
can help you in developing a providing you the vaccines and parasite
control products needed for a proper vaccination program. They can also
assist in selecting handling equipment that will keep you and your cattle
look at forage utilization and then nutrition as integral parts of a
detailed management program. Once you have selected like cattle, have
implemented a record keeping system as well as a health program, we can
know look at a feeding program. Nutrition and genetics work hand in hand
to create a desirable end result. A great nutrition program cannot over
come poor genetics, while great genetics cannot reach its full potential
without adequate nutrition. This statement, while simple, is overlooked
time and time again on farms throughout the state.
looking at a nutrition program we start with what is available naturally,
and that is forage. Whether hay or standing grass, your nutrition program
will be based upon this. With something this important, "know what
you got." Send in soil samples and fertilize based upon these
recommendations. Send in hay samples from each cutting and see how
nutritionally sound your hay will be. If you know what you have in forage
quality, you will know what you need to supplement this forage for maximum
also pay close attention to weed control. Weeds will reduce the overall
quality of the forage as well as taking away needed nutrition for your
grass. We can help you in taking and making recommendations on soil
samples, as well as helping you to analyze your forage. Your Co-op also
carries weed control products as well as the knowledge to help you select
the proper herbicide program for your farm.
piece to the management program can now be implemented. Nutritional
supplementation should only be considered after you have looked at all of
the other areas. A complete nutrition program will provide supplemental
energy, protein, minerals and vitamins to help your operation to maximize
profits. So many times, we visit farms that supplement just to be
supplementing. Your supplementation program should only be implemented
after giving careful consideration to your total management program.
Again, we have qualified personnel that are available to assist you in
selecting the best feed products available to meet the additional
nutritional needs of your cattle herd.
are some general ideas to help you to get started in developing and
implementing a total management plan, it is by no means the only way to do
it. Evaluate your current program and implement ideas that you think will
best help you improve the overall quality of your operation. You might
need several years to completely implement a total program, but once
implemented, you will soon see the fruits of your labor.
additional articles over the next couple of months, I will go into more
specific detail about each area discussed in this article. I hope that
this will provide you with the information needed to create a management
plan that will keep you profitable even if depressed market conditions
come our way. As always, I can be reached at [email protected]
or through your local cooperative. I hope that the new year has started
off well and I look forward to visiting with you over the next several
Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.