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Vet’s Voice

Dave Barz, DVM

Finally the cool weather has arrived. It did not take long for summer to turn into fall. Now is the time to plan your calf marketing. This year calf prices are higher than the last few years. Many producers will market their calves directly from the cow. Most should be able to cover the cost of maintaining a cow for a year. If marketing early, producers may leave some dollars on the table which could add to the cowherd’s profitability.

Working calves before marketing generally improves the price $8 to $10 per hundredweight (cwt.). In many herds, dehorning and castration is done at branding. If a few were missed, or have not been done yet, it is best to do these processes while the calf is still on the cow. This reduces the stress at weaning or sale time. Nothing is more frustrating than a feeder taking a $10/cwt. loss because the calf has horns or appears stagy. Calf buyers prefer purchasing a complete package.

Buyers also prefer to buy preconditioned calves. In our area we recommend live viral vaccines. Recent data shows a good vaccination program usually results in a $4 to $5 per hundredweight premium. This more than reimburses the rancher for the cost of vaccine and the time to administer.

As heavier calves are marketed in the spring, buyers tend to assume these animals are vaccinated and premiums may not seem as great. The trade-off hopefully will be extra pounds and less pulls while those animals were fed.

Extra pounds result in more dollars on a high market. With a current market of more than $1.15 per pound, producers can pencil profits on both creep feed and early weaning. By keeping the cost of gain low enough, producers can profit $30 to $40 per hundredweight gained by the calves. As the corn and forage prices increase these profits may decrease, so watch comparative market prices.

Retained ownership should not be overlooked this year. Although there may not be as much potential profit as some years, watch the grain prices and the futures for feeds to determine if it is worth the risk. If producers know how their cattle cut, they will be able to calculate the premiums available through retained ownership. Sometimes premiums paid when calves are sold as feeders are minimized or not existent.

Specialty markets may bring ranchers more dollars. Non-antibiotic calves bring more dollars, but usually the premiums are paid to the calf producer right off the ranch. Weaning these calves may not result in any extra dollars and may not be worth the risk. Be aware of the market and planned sale. Non-implanted calves may bring a few more dollars, but sometimes the extra pounds resulting from implants are worth more than the non-implant status. Know the cost of production before making a decision.

Many believe that the age and source program is dead because the USDA scrapped their identification program. We are marketing more age and source fats than ever. Our clients get an extra $20 to $40 for less than a $5 investment. We are beginning to see some premiums for calves moving into specific feedlots. It is only a few dollars per hundredweight, but it is a start. The hope is that electronic identification would give producers the ability to receive slaughter data on animals long after they left the ranch.

Now is the time to develop a marketing strategy for this year. Producers should know their calves ability to gain and their cutability. Couple this with cost of gain and futures markets allowing producers to project different scenarios. Visit with your veterinarian, extension specialist, nutritionist and marketing consultant to decide on a plan for your herd. The extra dollars you generate will add to the profitability of your herd and assure the future of your ranch.

Finally the cool weather has arrived. It did not take long for summer to turn into fall. Now is the time to plan your calf marketing. This year calf prices are higher than the last few years. Many producers will market their calves directly from the cow. Most should be able to cover the cost of maintaining a cow for a year. If marketing early, producers may leave some dollars on the table which could add to the cowherd’s profitability.

Working calves before marketing generally improves the price $8 to $10 per hundredweight (cwt.). In many herds, dehorning and castration is done at branding. If a few were missed, or have not been done yet, it is best to do these processes while the calf is still on the cow. This reduces the stress at weaning or sale time. Nothing is more frustrating than a feeder taking a $10/cwt. loss because the calf has horns or appears stagy. Calf buyers prefer purchasing a complete package.

Buyers also prefer to buy preconditioned calves. In our area we recommend live viral vaccines. Recent data shows a good vaccination program usually results in a $4 to $5 per hundredweight premium. This more than reimburses the rancher for the cost of vaccine and the time to administer.

As heavier calves are marketed in the spring, buyers tend to assume these animals are vaccinated and premiums may not seem as great. The trade-off hopefully will be extra pounds and less pulls while those animals were fed.

Extra pounds result in more dollars on a high market. With a current market of more than $1.15 per pound, producers can pencil profits on both creep feed and early weaning. By keeping the cost of gain low enough, producers can profit $30 to $40 per hundredweight gained by the calves. As the corn and forage prices increase these profits may decrease, so watch comparative market prices.

Retained ownership should not be overlooked this year. Although there may not be as much potential profit as some years, watch the grain prices and the futures for feeds to determine if it is worth the risk. If producers know how their cattle cut, they will be able to calculate the premiums available through retained ownership. Sometimes premiums paid when calves are sold as feeders are minimized or not existent.

Specialty markets may bring ranchers more dollars. Non-antibiotic calves bring more dollars, but usually the premiums are paid to the calf producer right off the ranch. Weaning these calves may not result in any extra dollars and may not be worth the risk. Be aware of the market and planned sale. Non-implanted calves may bring a few more dollars, but sometimes the extra pounds resulting from implants are worth more than the non-implant status. Know the cost of production before making a decision.

Many believe that the age and source program is dead because the USDA scrapped their identification program. We are marketing more age and source fats than ever. Our clients get an extra $20 to $40 for less than a $5 investment. We are beginning to see some premiums for calves moving into specific feedlots. It is only a few dollars per hundredweight, but it is a start. The hope is that electronic identification would give producers the ability to receive slaughter data on animals long after they left the ranch.

Now is the time to develop a marketing strategy for this year. Producers should know their calves ability to gain and their cutability. Couple this with cost of gain and futures markets allowing producers to project different scenarios. Visit with your veterinarian, extension specialist, nutritionist and marketing consultant to decide on a plan for your herd. The extra dollars you generate will add to the profitability of your herd and assure the future of your ranch.


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