Looking at a simple, yet practical invention, people often wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” In this case, Tom Jefferson did think of it.

Mr. Jefferson operates a diversified farm and beef-cattle operation near Carthage, Ill., with his wife, Mavis, and daughters Andrea, Heather and Kristen. The family manages a 75-head cow herd, backgrounds up to 200 purchased calves and finishes cattle in the farm’s feedlot.

Mr. Jefferson describes the cattle operation as “flexible,” explaining that he buys and sells small groups of cattle year-round. He purchases calves, mostly during the fall, for backgrounding. In some cases, the Jeffersons feed out the backgrounded calves and sell them as finished cattle; in other cases, they resell the calves after adding value with their backgrounding program. “Once we precondition them, they are in good shape,” Mr. Jefferson says. “We’ll sell some uniform batches if the market is right; otherwise we keep them for finishing.” He bases his decisions for how many cattle to background or finish on cattle prices, feed prices and the types of cattle available. The family’s farming operation supplies all of the grain and forage for backgrounding and finishing cattle.

The family markets their home-raised calves differently from the purchased calves. Mr. Jefferson says the family weans and preconditions the Angus-cross calves for certification through Merial’s SureHealth program. They market the calves through special certified sales at their local auction barn, where they typically earn significant premiums.

Clearly, a sound animal-health program is a critical component of each of the Jeffersons’ cattle enterprises, whether preconditioning calves for certified sales, adding value to purchased calves for resale or for maximizing performance in the family’s feedlot.

The health program, which Mr. Jefferson credits to his wife, led to the development of the syringe-holding bucket and winning Profit Tip. The Jeffersons’ nephew, T.J. Menn, who has helped out on the farm “since he could walk,” originally submitted the Tip to Drovers. “He’s now a fourth-year cadet at the West Point Military Academy, but T.J. still works on the farm whenever he’s home,” Mr. Jefferson says.

The syringe holder serves multiple purposes, Mr. Jefferson explains. It improves safety around the processing chute by keeping needles out of reach. It helps organize syringes holding different products for improved efficiency. Also, with year-round purchasing and several different classes of cattle on the farm at any given time, the Jeffersons process cattle in all weather conditions. Here the bucket offers an additional benefit by protecting vaccines or medicines from heat or freezing.