It's time to develop the lazy L for culling cows.
Looking at the drought forecast certainly causes concern. It's not panic, just concern. In some areas, the lack of precipitation persists, while other areas are candidates for less precipitation.
In reality, producers should be preparing for less forage availability and implementing grazing strategies that will be in balance with what Mother Nature decides to provide this year. No one will know until summer's end. However, by then, it is too late to be proactive.
For many, continued drought or low precipitation will result in feed shortages and increased costs that must be weighed against a producer's perpetual optimism. However, there are real limits to how Mother Nature deals the cards.
One of those cards is capital, which means how much money a particular producer has to risk. Risk is a key to survival. Producers need to take some risk, but risk protection also is important. As producers take advantage of risk management programs that are offered, risk can be lowered.
Also, managing and guiding production can minimize risk. From the management side of risk, one common thread among many financial downfalls is the failure to act at the proper time. We all are faced with challenges throughout our lives, but doing nothing creates nothing. The cattle business can be a wait-and-see business. However, management should be proactive, not reactive.
Ranching and farming are like driving fast cars. Sometimes the road curves a little more than you want or the road conditions are not what you want. In either case, adjustments in speed and direction need to be made to survive. As the road narrows, the heart rate may go up, but careful planning and preparation will bring out the survival instinct and you can steer your way through.
However, if you wait too long to make the needed adjustments, your car will spin out of control with possible tragic results.
Adjusting inventory is one option open to cattle producers. Keying in on bred cow sales or timing cull markets certainly can produce cash, cut costs and, we hope, bank dollars for a future day or reduce debt. Inventory reductions actually can be beneficial, particularly if a focus is maintained on the core cow herd.
An example of proactive management is when a producer evaluates cow-calf numbers and determines in advance how many pairs should be turned out to grass and adjusts the inventory accordingly.
For those producers who utilize the Cow Herd Appraisal and Performance Software (CHAPS) program or any producer who has calving records, the lazy L principle should be applied. The lazy L is a simple evaluation of the current calving season. This is a lot easier for those producers who already have a calving distribution table.