This issue marks the beginning of the 16th year I've assembled this newsletter . . . issue #751. I suspect you wonder why I'd use Yogi Berra's age's old "Yogi-ism" as the title. Indeed as a youngster who seldom left the farm during the summer except to play baseball, the first numbered jersey I ever wore was number 8 - Yogi's number. When the coach handed it to me I went home and dug Yogi's bubblegum card from my collection and studied his stats. However, it wasn't until years later that I began to hear, and understand what Yogi-isms were.
That being said, at the end of the day, the real reason for the title of this article has little to do directly with Yogi, but primarily with the titles of the articles which were included in Issue # 1 of this publication some 15 years ago. In the first issue published in September of 1996, this publication focused on:
* Marketing your 1996 calves
* Consider testing the 1996 hay crop, by Rory Lewandowski
* Winter pasture and supplemental forage quality, by Ed Vollborn
* Stockpiling - good for the plant - good for the pocketbook
* Grazing cereal rye, by Dave Samples
Ironic isn't it . . . seemingly little has changed. We're still discussing the same issues! The only thing different is that the stakes are significantly higher. As we take a closer look back to that point in time for Ohio's beef cattle industry, the LMIC told us "high cost-of-gain, due to high corn prices (corn = $3.50 cash farm price in September, 1996), pulled 700- to 800-pound steer prices $4 to $5 per cwt below slaughter steer prices, for the first three months of 1996. And 500- to 600-pound steers had only a small price premium compared to heavier feeders." In 1996, fed cattle prices averaged in the low $60's. Now, 15 years later, if you simply double the prices mentioned above, you have a pretty accurate snapshot of today.
That begs the question, not only what do Ohio cattlemen need to do to continue to be competitive in this industry, but how can those of us in Ohio reach the next level of sustainable profitability? A few years ago in a piece I wrote I suggested that the "Winds of Change" had perhaps come full circle. For example, for years as forages remained inexpensive, we planned to stock pastures in an effort to utilize the spring flush, and then we simply purchased hay if forages became short. The economics of that today likely don't work as well as they might have in the past.
Beginning in the 60's we also drifted towards storing much of our hay outside and feeding it in a bale ring. In recent years, my colleagues and I have asked throughout this publication the seemingly rhetorical question, "Can we remain profitable if we plan to store our feed resources outside, drop them in a steel ring in the middle of a field, and expect a group of cows to encircle that ring and not shred a fourth of into little more than bedding?" As has been mentioned a number of times here in recent months, perhaps it's time to consider processing our forages and feeding them in a system where waste as we've come to know it is avoided.
As we consider that the US cow herd is as small as it's been in 50+ years, and demand for high quality beef remains good, there are great opportunities for Ohio cattlemen. Especially for the aggressive manager located in the parts of the state where forages and crop residue are abundant.
As we move towards 2012, I'd challenge you to consider ways to reduce expenses AND waste, ask yourself if you can afford to even make hay, if you do feed hay consider the benefits of processing it, and ponder that just because we've always done it that way doesn't make it right.
Experience is a wonderful thing . . . if you survive it and learn from it. By all means, learn from other's mistakes . . . you don't have time to make them all yourself! Or, in the words of old # 8, it may be deja vu, all over again!