Ask the Vet

Lower Cattle Prices Call for Management Tweaks

Dr. Ken McMillan relies on Dr. Jim Floyd's "Seven Quality Checks" to make good culling decisions and NCBA's little Redbook for recordkeeping. (Progressive Farmer image by Victoria G. Myers)

Question: With the downturn in cattle prices, I am looking for ways to save money. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: In times like these, we are all tempted to just blindly cut spending. My motto is to try to never spend money unnecessarily or to save money foolishly.

The problem is identifying where money needs to be allocated and not allocated. This is a wonderful time to really work on your recordkeeping and accounting. I know this is my biggest failure and a common challenge for many producers.

In making culling decisions, I always advise producers to apply Dr. Jim Floyd's "Seven Quality Checks." From head to tail, they are disposition, eyes, teeth, feet, udders, body condition and pregnancy status. After culls have been made, do you know which of the remaining cows are making you money or losing the least amount of money? This is where good records are needed.

The Redbook, from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, is a great framework for recordkeeping (www.beefusa.org/redbook.aspx). I use the electronic version and sync it to Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) so I have access to those records on my computer, iPad and phone.

Quicken or QuickBooks can be great accounting tools. There are several Charts of Accounts developed by agricultural economists that can make these even more useful. A quick Google search can find several options, or your Extension agent should be able to help you.

Don't just go it alone. Consult with your support group of experts (if you don't have one, get one fast). That group could be made up of your veterinarian, Extension agents, nutritionists, feed and farm suppliers, bankers, accountants, Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) representatives, and the people involved in marketing your cattle, just to name a few.

I would be interested in hearing from our readers on the steps they are taking to survive these tough economic times.

(VM/AG)