Grant Dewell, DVM, PhD, Iowa State University, offers these suggestions for helping your cow-calf clients save money through these tough economic times.

Minimize feed waste. For most cow-calf producers, the most expensive item is feed. Feeding hay on the ground can cost a producer about one-third of the hay. Dewell, recommends placing hay in a cone-type feeder to minimize waste. Put up hay properly so mold doesn’t occur. In round bales, waste loss around the outer part of the bale can be significant.

Balance rations. Make sure that the animals’ rations are balanced. Evaluating the mineral and protein supplementation programs is important, rather than using a mineral that may not be necessary. “Consult a nutritionist, extension specialist or feed company to help get the appropriate rations,” says Dewell. “Producers also need to sort cows into groups so that heifers that need to gain are fed differently than the older cows and different from cow-calf pairs.”

Use vaccination programs. Work with your producers to develop a preventive health and vaccination program. Producers need to cover what’s necessary to prevent disease without going overboard.

Pre-condition calves. To help those vaccination programs work most effectively, Dewell suggests developing a good pre-conditioning program and vaccinating animals before they are stressed to make sure the vaccine is going to work effectively when the calves get to the feedlot.

Evaluate management practices. Dewell notes success with the “Sand Hills system” of calving that was developed in the Nebraska Sand Hills which involves calving in a new area every couple of weeks so bacteria and viruses don’t build up in one place. “Moving calves into clean pastures will result in better health and less calf scours problems.”