Content ID

46004

Advice for Expansion-Minded Cattle Producers

Finally, last month it happened: The beef cow herd expanded. The January 1 USDA cattle inventory report says cow numbers were up by 2% from the year before, to 29.7 million head. It breaks a streak that saw ranchers liquidate 4 million cows since 2006, mostly due to withering drought in the Plains and expensive feed.

A break in the drought and phenomenal calf prices turned the tide. The chase for limited feeder calves has grown so competitive that 550-pound steers straight off the ranch approached $3 a pound. Average profits are $550 per calf sold, according to CattleFax.

Texas, the leading cow-calf state with 4.2 million pairs, added 7% last year. Beef industry leaders, anxious to regain market share from pork and poultry, had plenty of advice for expansion-minded ranchers at the recent National Cattle Convention.

Squeeze tighter. Grazing land is in short supply, but you can make existing pastures work harder, says Texas A&M cattle specialist Ted McCollum. In research, they put GPS trackers on cows. They grazed only 39% of the pasture, mostly close to water. You can expand their range and stocking density by moving water and mineral sources, clearing brush, and cross-fencing into smaller paddocks, McCollum says. 

Confine in feedlots. Rabobank market analyst Don Close suggests adding cows in a confined or semi-confined system. Many feedlots are at only 60% of capacity, so pens and feed equipment are available. Confined cows could also work on landlocked Corn Belt crop farms, using underutilized farmstead facilities. It could add a revenue stream and value to homegrown feed, opening a door to a new generation on the farm.

Invest smart. Don’t think wild cattle prices will last forever. Over the past 25 years, a bred heifer has been worth 1.5 times the sales value of her calf, says CattleFax CEO Randy Blach. That’s $2,300 to $2,600, not the $3,500 of some sales. “Expand, but be smart and do your homework,” he says.

Read more about
Loading...

Tip of the Day

Driver for electric fence posts is helpful

Fence post driver from Mar '20 AATF I welded a steel cap and handle onto one end of a section of light-duty 1¼-inch angle iron and a footstep onto the other end. This lets me... read more

Talk in Marketing