By Jared Wareham
Flying H Genetics Lowry City, Mo.
Last month, I examined two issues that can create an impact on your bottom line: cow size and managed grazing systems. This month reviews two more strategies to improve management and profitability.
1. Plan vaccinations and parasite control. Some producers believe that vaccinations and parasite control are too expensive and unnecessary. Hogwash. Many holistic management promoters believe there is little need to properly vaccinate or worm your herd, but you can’t get too caught up in extreme practices of holistic management. It can wreak havoc on your herd’s productivity.
Can you develop a set of cows, goats or sheep that depend very little on vaccines and wormers? Absolutely, but at what cost? It’s a long-term process, and you should be prepared to suffer significant animal attrition and death loss to achieve the goal.
However, you shouldn’t spend wastefully on animal health and wellness products that are redundant or needless. The appropriate rule-of-thumb is, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Use a well-planned regimen for herd health decisions that adequately address your needs. Additionally, shop around and take advantage of savings on products. View your health program as a tool. With proper design and application, it can be extremely effective and add value to your calves on sale day.
2. Use big iron wisely. I’ve often heard holistic management proponents claim that tractors, brush hogs and other capital equipment are unnecessary. This is a classic example of extremism that makes me shake my head.
There is nothing wrong with using equipment to properly maintain pastures or grasslands to ensure plant health and longevity. After all, cattle are harvesters of grass and sunshine. Take care of the "solar panels" that supply your cattle with quality energy and protein. Proper weed and brush control can improve stocking rates, plant health and reduce future pasture maintenance costs.
However, these items can create suffocating amounts of debt and overhead. Overspending on capital equipment is the No. 1 factor that leads to the demise of many operations. View capital equipment as a tool to reduce labor and increase productivity. If purchase price and maintenance costs are managed correctly, tractors and other equipment can be essential to the efficient operation of a beef cattle business.
Most successful operations use a combination of both traditional and holistic business models. To increase profits, a good manager is as efficient as possible with his or her costs while working to build extra value into cattle. Adding value in a niche market without extreme production cost is an ideal approach. Don’t take risks unless you are forced. Extreme practices often leave producers in a wreck and remind others of the dangers.
Super-moderate-sized cows, managed grazing systems and least-cost philosophies all have merit, but they are not practices that work everywhere for everyone. Additionally, they can’t be the fix-all solution for cash-strained operations. Again, research, digest and plan. Perhaps you can uncover some tactics that will help lower your input costs or add value to your cattle.
Jared Wareham devotes much of his time to bull development, marketing and strategic planning for Flying H Genetics, which markets 450 bulls annually from two ranch locations in Arapahoe, Neb., and Lowry City, Mo. Wareham and his wife, Jill, have three young daughters and reside on the Missouri ranch. Contact Jared: