Ask the Vet

Focus on Efficient Handling Facilities

When it's time to update or add handling facilities, put efficiency high on the priority list. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

QUESTION: Our family farm is looking to update and improve efficiency. At one time, we had more than 200 cows, but now there are only about a hundred head. We need to get the farm back to making money. Where do we start?

ANSWER: The foundation of every good cattle operation starts with three fundamental things. First, you need good working facilities; next, a controlled calving season; and finally, a good recordkeeping system. All of these work together to create an efficient, well-organized business.

Working facilities should be such that cattle can be handled easily, safely and efficiently. There are plenty of good plans available. When you have the right place to work cattle, you need to have the time set aside to work cattle.

Establish routines and times for handling certain jobs. A controlled calving season is crucial here, because without it, things like pregnancy-testing, vaccinations, castrations and other procedures become difficult to plan. Pastures cannot be used most efficiently without controlled breeding, and supplemental feeding becomes more difficult and costly.

When it comes to marketing, having calves of widely varying ages costs you money. And trying to select replacements becomes a crapshoot.

Recordkeeping starts with a good animal identification system. Ear tags backed up with tattoos are one good approach. Then systematically record all relevant information. There are great software systems available to handle this chore, but you can use something as simple as a spiral notebook.