Excluding labor and implant costs, stocker operators surveyed by Drovers say they typically spend $7.28 per head on health products for their stocker cattle. Those dollars are spent on parasite control products, clostridial vaccines, antibiotics and other vaccines.

Drovers collected the information through a mail survey last fall of 1,000 subscribers who annually maintain stocker herds of 200 or more head. The response rate for the survey was 30 percent. Overall, respondents tended to have relatively large herds, as the average number of stocker cattle reported was 1,010 head, with a median of 450 head. Of all respondents, 90.4 percent said they were the owner or partner in a stocker operation. The survey was conducted to better understand the management and marketing practices of today's stocker operators, and to help identify issues of concern for those producers.

Larger producers tended to spend more on health programs than smaller producers. Those claiming more than 500 head in their stocker herd spent an average of $7.72 on health products last year, excluding labor and implants. Operators with herds under 500 head say they spent an average of $6.92 on the same products.

Not surprisingly, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases caused the most problems for stocker operations. Slightly more than 40 percent of respondents said respiratory diseases "regularly" caused problems in their herds during the first month after arrival. Parasite problems such as worms, flies and lice "regularly" caused problems during the first month for slightly more than 15 percent of producers. Pinkeye and other eye problems was listed as a "regular" first month problem by 10.7 percent of respondents. Foot rot and lameness was next, mentioned by 7.4 percent of producers.

Survey respondents also indicated the average weight of incoming cattle was 457 pounds. Specifically, 29 percent of respondents said they typically buy cattle weighing under 425 pounds, 36 percent say they buy cattle in the 426 to 500 pound range, and 35 percent of respondents say they start with cattle weighing over 500 pounds.

Stocker operators also prefer to start cattle in the fall. October was the most preferred month, with 30.3 percent of respondents indicating they receive the majority of their cattle at that time. November was second most preferred with 15.1 percent of respondents, and September was third at 10 percent.

March, April and May all registered slightly more than 6 percent preference. The least preferable months for receiving stocker cattle were June and July, with about 1 percent each. January was next with just over 2 percent preference by respondents.

Some other highlights from the Drovers 2000 Stocker Study:

  • 51.7 percent of respondents say changing market conditions may cause them to vary marketing strategies from year to year
  • 49.8 percent of respondents say they may buy heifers instead of steers if price and profit expectations dictate a switch
  • 41.7 percent of respondents say they may delay or not purchase stockers when cattle price move higher
  • 40.2 percent say they may buy lighter cattle than they prefer, depending on price and profit expectations

Additional results from the Drovers 2000 Stocker Study will be released in upcoming columns over the next few weeks.