AgriLife: Now’s the time for novices to get into beef production

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OVERTON – “It’s been a long time since beef producers had this good of a chance of off-setting their production costs,” said Dr. Monte Rouquette, Texas A&M AgriLife Research forage scientist.

But those new to the business can still find it a money pit if they don’t have the proper training, Rouquette said.

A three-day intensive class in East Texas on March 26-28 is designed to do just that: to give those new to the business the prerequisite training to be successful in the beef cattle business, he said.

Rouquette is optimistic about the chances of success for novice and experienced beef producers because of unusually high prices for weaned calves. Though production costs remain high, at current prices, it’s possible to gross $500 to $1,000 for a weaned calf, he said.

Returns vary so widely because lighter calves — those in the 500-pound range — are selling for as much as $1.40 to $1.50 per pound, while heavier calves may sell for $1.10 per pound.

Another reason is tied to fertilizer prices, Rouquette said. Though they remain high since a surge in prices from 2008 through 2010, they haven’t climbed much since, while calf prices have risen dramatically.

There are other trainings on pasture management available, but the Pasture and Livestock Management Workshop, more commonly known as the Grazing School for Novices, goes into a lot more in-depth and basic information than is possible in a one-day school, Rouquette said.

“We’re not in competition with one-day trainings by any means,” he emphasized. “We supplement them. We can give beef producers, particularly novices, information that will make further trainings more valuable.”

Past students have rated the school very valuable. In the 2011 school, students were surveyed prior to and after completing the course, according to Rouquette. On average, the students estimated they would save $4,111 from what they learned from the course.

Registration for the course is $350, and may be done online at http://overton.tamu.edu/grazing-school-2013/. A full program agenda may be found at the same URL.

Alternately, students may reserve an opening by phone or email by contacting Jennifer Lloyd at 903-834-6191 or jllloyd@ag.tamu.edu. Lloyd will have information on class openings, local accommodations and driving directions to the center.

Most of the instructors hold doctorates in their fields and are either with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service or AgriLife Research, Rouquette said. They have expertise in forage breeding and production, soil fertility, wildlife management, beef cattle nutrition and marketing.

“We’ve heard again and again from students that what they’ve learned in the first morning paid for the cost of the course many times over,” said Dr. Greg Clary, AgriLife Extension economist and another course instructor.

“We aren’t just giving recommendations based on our opinions,” Rouquette said. “Our recommendations are based upon years of comparative research under southern region conditions.”

The school is split between the classroom and instruction in the field. Outdoor demonstrations cover all aspects of running a beef operation, from establishing and maintaining high-quality forages, calibrating sprayers, taking soil samples, castrating and vaccinating cattle, de-horning calves and even controlling feral hogs, noted Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, AgriLife Extension forage specialist and another grazing school instructor, Overton.


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