Cattle producers are faced everyday with decisions that have the potential to affect their bottom lines. These choices can range from simple things such as if to move the cowherd to a new pasture or pre-paying for supplies, to more complex decisions such as how and when to market their calf crop. 

This fall cow calf producers are faced with a lower sale prices than they have probably seen for a couple of years. In some cases the price per pound being received for the same weight and quality of calves are as much as half what the received just a year or two ago.

Drastic price swings such as this often shock and scare those that are unprepared or that don’t put regular thought into their production cost! Hopefully producers have kept their eye on their production cost and know the areas where they can make smart choices to reducing cost if possible.

Knee jerk reactions generally don’t work here the best! Deciding to cut things that do not make sense in the current market is sound business but eliminating or cutting things just to not spend a dollar does not always work!

So are you thinking about not vaccinating your calves this year because you could save money? Or are you thinking “Oh I just leave them on the cows till I sell them” no need to wean them and put 50 days of feed in to them right? Why preg-check this year right? That is a cost you don’t need right? Wrong

These tried and true practices and many others are not areas to cut cost on this year or any other!

Production practices such as vaccinating, castrating, weaning, bunk breaking all roll into the blanket called pre-conditioning. Looking back at close to twenty years of working with producers and varied calf marketing programs and protocols, nothing adds value to a set of calves quite like a good pre-conditioning program. Yeah, guys will talk about how over the past couple of years they hauled their calves to town straight of the cow, green as a gourd, with no shots and received just as high a price as their neighbor that did all “That Stuff”.

Well I can’t argue with that. But we are in a much different market now and will likely be for the next few years. We are looking at a down fed cattle market, and a larger calf supply. These two factors bring about the need for you to make your calves different from all the others. One of the simplest and best ways to do this is to precondition your calves!

Talk with your veterinarian, extension agent, or potential buyers and see what they would like to have incorporated into a pre-conditioning program. What vaccines, dewormers or starter feeds make sense? Do you want to implant the calves or market them into a niche? Make sure you know the potential cost of leaving performance behind. Would you make more money holding the calves to market at a different weight? These are all things that you need to think through and make the choices that best work for enhancing the value and attractiveness of your calves.

Let’s not forget to talk about how little sense it makes to feed an open cow or two through the winter! Yeah guys have said, well I know in the spring if she was bred or not….well true but you have already invested a winters worth of feed into her when you figure that out. Other guys will say well she will add enough weight over the winter to pay for keeping her…. Not unless you are feeding your cows probably better than you need to be. Oh what about the risk? The risk that she gets injured or the market drops more or worst of all she dies? I know that never happens right. Once again put a pencil to it and see if the things you think are true really are and don’t forget that risk factor. So don’t SKIMP on thinking through what may help to improve your bottom line!