BQA eventually may become mandatory
September 14, 2016
The rains have been phenomenal. Several areas received over six inches before Labor Day. The temperatures are finally cooling and the grass is getting green again. It appears we will have plenty of feed for our cows this winter. There are some areas where the early corn will only be good for silage. Cutting is going rapidly if you can avoid the mud. Some producers are talking of estimated yields of about ten bushel per acre. That is a long way from cash flowing even with government programs.
Between the showers we've been ultrasounding heifers and cows and preconditioning calves. When I came to South Dakota some forty years ago, we worried about the flies. We did not consider working and preconditioning calves until we had a good "killing frost" usually mid October. In the mid-seventies several southern feedlot consultants hypothesized that we could decrease losses at the feedlot if we "preconditioned" the calves while they were still nursing mama. The flies didn't seem to bother in the south, so the idea moved north to our area.
Initially everyone believed we would be paid bonus money for the preconditioned calves. Nearly every state formed a certified vaccination protocol.
Vaccine manufacturers also saw on opportunity for more sales and formulated their own corporate programs. The initial attempts were to produce a standardized program for the whole industry, but agreements could not be reached and it ended up as every man (company) for himself. Also the producer has not seen consistent rewards for preconditioning, BQA involvement, or non-hormone strategies. It still depends on the calves.
I've seen good green unvaccinated bawling calves bring as much or even more that vaccinated and weaned calves at the livestock market. As a general rule over the last few years, weaned calves are worth $3 – $4 per hundred over unweaned, a complete documented vaccination program is worth an additional $5 – $8 per hundred. The important thing to remember is documentation. I have seen all forms of documentation from BQA worksheets to scraps of paper. Order buyers will ask to see the paperwork at the livestock market so they can pass the information on the buyer.
We have all feared the word mandatory for many years. Within the next few years the packers will require documentation on animals entering the food chain. Swine BQA became mandatory several years ago and now even the truckers need a certification card to unload. One of the packers already sends inspectors to Mitchell Livestock to evaluate animal care, handling, and equipment. I believe this has already progressed to the feedlots because we have been evaluated by packers at feedlot working facilities.' I realize mandatory is a swear word for most of us, but I am afraid it is coming and it may already be here. Again, there will be no premiums paid for participation, just deductions for non-compliance.
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The calf market is nowhere close to the past several years. It appears some herds will barely be able to cover yearly cow costs with the calf. With inexpensive feed you must calculate the cost of gain on your calves. If you can add a pound to the calf for 65 cents, and you can get $1.50 for that pound, you can come close to making $1 per pound added (50 pounds – $50). To improve your feed efficiency also consider using a growth implant. These should increase your efficiency by 10 percent. Early weaning is also a useful tool for adding additional weight to your calves while enabling your cows to replace lost body with before winter.
Many things have changed in the beef industry over the years. It appears this year we will need to add value to our calves to assure profitability of our herds. Preconditioning, implants, early weaning and BQA enrollment will help you produce well documented calves for the market. The inexpensive feed should enable you to easily add pounds to your calves to produce extra dollars. Consult with your veterinarian, nutritionalist, or extension specialist and formulate a weaning and back grounding program generating extra income for your beef operation.