Sort & Cull

Cow-Calf Producers Head into Their Overtime Season

ShayLe Stewart
By  ShayLe Stewart , DTN Livestock Analyst
Even during the busy calving season, think about strategies of what to do to make your cow-calf operation more profitable, including when is the best calving time for your herd. (DTN file photo)

It never fails. You plan, you prep and you try to rethink about last year's calving season and how you could make this year go a little easier, but still something happens along the way. Whether trials are weather-induced, equipment malfunctions or a new set of first-calf heifers that don't seem to fit the description they were sold under, calving season has its own way to bring out the best in everyone.

In the midst of hustling to keep calves healthy, alive and well, producers get bogged down in the day-to-day work of calving and sometimes miss out on the opportunity to re-evaluate their operations and how they can make changes to better the year's outcome. For instance, if you can calve in the spring, have you ever thought of rolling half your herd to fall calving? If you calve in January/February, are you getting enough out of your calves in the fall to justify the cost of the extra feed it takes to winter those pairs verses calving in March/April, or April/May? What's your labor situation? Would you be better to put your cows out on shares and forgo some of the day-to-day responsibilities? If you sell your calves in the fall, do you sell them all or hold onto a portion to until after the New Year? What do you do with your cull cows? Are you hitting the best market to get the bang for your buck out of them?

Regardless of how your operation is set up, the beginning of a new year brings new opportunities in which you can take advantage of if you had time to think about the different outcomes, run the numbers and chat with your banker. But key planning strategies have to be thought out and decided upon before decisions can be made, so take the time to look around and see what other operations capitalize on and what practices you could implement too.

If you struggle to find new ways to make your ranch more profitable, be more active. Talk to your banker. Bankers see the figures for numerous operations, and they have a good idea of what general practices are working and what ideas cost more than their worth. Or call people who run completely different operations than you. Have them break down the different parts of their ranches and see if maybe it's their breeding, feeding or marketing strategies that could help change your operation.

Little changes can have the biggest outcomes if planned and implemented in the right season. You don't have to explain to ranchers that their profits are minimal, saving every dollar matters and safeguarding potential profit losses can make a world of difference.

ShayLe Stewart can be reached at



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