From the May 2016 issue of Farm Journal. Part three of three.

Forty head—that’s the size of the average cowherd in the U.S., according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“Usually a small cow-calf herd means a diversified operation,” says Rick Rasby, Extension beef specialist, University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL). This means the majority of producers have several irons in the fi re, making it essential to maximize resources to keep the herd profitable.

“The cattle have to complement the rest of the enterprises, and the enterprises have to complement the cattle,” Rasby adds. Whether they’re juggling an off farm job or a diversified operation, cow-calf producers with a few dozen head have to play a smart game with limited resources. According to Rasby and Jaymelynn Farney, Kansas State University Extension beef specialist, there are a few steps producers can take to increase their herd’s potential:

■ Reputation cattle; premium sales. If a producer is practicing advanced herd health and management protocols, the best thing he can do about it is tell potential buyers, Farney says. “From a marketing perspective, don’t be afraid to brag on your cattle. If people don’t hear you’ve been doing something above and beyond, you definitely won’t capture additional revenue,” she says. Seek out sales specifically for documented preconditioned cattle in structured programs, such as VAC-45, to capture earned premiums.

■ Collaborate with a neighbor. The size of your herd determines how you market cattle—the more cattle you sell at a time, the more they are worth. “Generate a partnership with cohorts who have similar genetics,” Farney says. This also gives producers more marketing options since some outlets require full semi-loads at a time.

Click here for Part one: Work smarter, not harder: Reduce input, increase output.

Click here for Part two: Work smarter, not harder: Assess your genetic strategy