Currently, a calf’s end product value resides atop the heap of highly marketed attributes. For good reason, both grade and yield significantly impact fed cattle values. Health, growth and maternal function fall a rung below on the marketing ladder, but find themselves equally, if not more, valuable to the ranch and vertical supply chain as end product.
There is another trait, often overshadowed by those already mentioned, that continues to gain steam for its linkage to profit and successful ranching: disposition. This attribute can only be managed through human and animal interface.
Disposition is rarely mentioned when listing factors essential to profitable beef production; yet, it always makes the short list of required attributes when I visit with cattlemen from coast to coast. Justifiably so, corrosive dispositions can be financially draining in a multitude of areas. Reduced economic efficiencies from poor gains at weaning and commingling come to mind first. However, there are other factors that can be slightly more abstract and difficult to quantify; yet collectively, these fractions of lost pro‑ ts can be substantial. For example, do a rough estimate on a set of calves that shrink 5% more, require 15% more labor units, use 20% more time and exacerbate an already stressful work environment compared to more docile contemporaries. It quickly becomes apparent disposition has tangible value.
Time and labor availability are significant factors to the operation of all businesses. We have all become victims of the rat race. We are forced to cram cattle work into odd pockets of time and stretch our man or labor units per cow to the thinnest of margins. This magnifies the case for convenient, reliable labor sources that can facilitate smooth and efficient cattle processing.
Disposition of cattle can have additional impacts on the human element. Workplace safety and best practice animal handling are becoming increasingly more important, both inside and outside of the industry. The average age of cattle ranchers is more than 50 years old, but seasonal help can widen that scope considerably. Working problem cattle at any age only leads to more problems.
Just like calving ease, a quiet dis-position has a greater value than ever before. Problem-free cattle, enriched with convenience production traits, are in high demand for all types of cattle producers.
Learning to care for cattle through the management of a beef enterprise is an increasingly desirable way to raise a family. Non-traditional producers appreciate the multitude of teachable life skills it offers their children. The threat of injury to any member of the family unit is unacceptable. There-fore, untrustworthy cattle present a clear obstacle that has to be avoided.
Quality control, or eliminating negative product attributes and magnifying positive customer outcomes, starts with the genetic supplier. Embracing the decision to take a loss on an animal to remove the chance someone else will inherit the problem takes a genuine, professional commitment to building a quality brand. That burden falls squarely on the shoulders of your genetics partner. Leverage this relationship to create value for your ranch.
Initiate a best practice action plan to keep potential “lost liters” in your pocket by avoiding feed, time, labor and safety inefficiencies linked to disposition. This is your chance to capture value you alone can create through properly executed genetic strategies and marketing plans.
Jared Wareham belongs to a team of beef-industry specialists called Allied Genetic Resources. Allied assists seedstock and commercial producers with education and support in the areas of marketing, customer service, genetics and sale management.
Note: This story appeared in the October 2016 issue of Drovers.