My grandparents' generation used to "saucer" their coffee to cool it. In fact, many tea drinkers did the same thing. They didn't use a mug like I do. They poured some of their "piping hot" coffee from the cup into a saucer, swirled it around, savored the aroma and drank it down.
That practice later became symbolic of "good times" or of "counting your blessings" when someone coined the phrase "I'm drinking from my saucer 'cause my cup has overflowed." We in the cattle business don't like to talk too much about our recent "run" of good luck (prices) for fear that we might jinx things, but our cup has indeed overflowed. Cow-calf producers are in the best position that we've ever been in and it appears that it should last for a while.
Let's "saucer the coffee". In other words, take time to smell the aroma and enjoy where we are at this point in time. We've almost been guilty of "panic selling" because we are afraid that the good times won't last. Relax. I don't see anything that's going to cause prices to collapse in the near future.
A cattleman recently told me that he usually preconditions his calves but sold them this year at weaning to take advantage of the good prices. You can make money either way, by selling or retaining ownership, but we haven't had many opportunities to put extra weight on calves at these prices. Go ahead and maximize your returns. Folks that are buying expensive calves will want some assurance that calves have been properly immunized and managed - so that they have an edge on survival. The Kentucky CPH feeder calf program provides that assurance.
Some other considerations to maximize income involve reproductive performance. We need to get the cows pregnant and try to save every calf! This is no time to come up short on your feeding and management programs. There is too much at stake. Feed costs might even be falling a little - at least it seems that corn will be cheaper this fall. Keep those cows in proper condition for good breeding efficiency. Provide a watchful eye during your calving season - be there and save those calves. Whatever it takes!
Having a live calf is the most important thing that the cows will do. So what does that tell you about the bulls? Select those that are reasonable calving ease prospects for the cows/heifers on which they will be used. Be sure that heifers are properly developed and bred to calving-ease bulls. This is no time for a "train wreck".
This coming winter will be a very important time for your cattle operation. There's no excuse for "roughing" cattle through and hoping that the next calving and breeding seasons will work out okay. Take good care of your animals to ensure that your cow herd performs at the optimum level. Losing a cow or calf is not only painful but represents a huge loss.
This is also a good time to cull some cows. Prices are good and if a cow isn't going to raise a calf, sell it. However, if you have open cows at weaning, you might consider holding them a while after weaning, and feeding them to put on extra weight before you move them. They can gain a lot of weight in a short period of time.
Cattle numbers are down and it will take some time for them to recover. Don't keep waiting for someone to pull the proverbial rug from under your feet. Capitalize on what we have now. It is a good time to make some needed capital improvements on your farm. And remember, provide good care for your cows . . . and take time to smell the coffee!