Vet’s Voice: Garnering additional dollars on calves and culls | TSLN.com
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Vet’s Voice: Garnering additional dollars on calves and culls

The rains missed us again. Now, after Labor Day, it looks like crops will mature with no increase in yields. The cool weather has ushered in fall, and in our area the fly population has really increased. With the high price of corn, I was surprised to see many of my clients chopping corn silage. This tells me some them are planning to background their calves to add value.

In the last month we have seen a weakness in feeder calf prices. Some of the early video auctions priced 500-pound calves at $2 per pound for November delivery. What do you think the market will do in the next few months? Hopefully we will see a stabilization of prices after the calves from the southwestern U.S. drought area have made their way into the feedyards.

The price for weaned calves is high this year. The important benchmark to gauge prices is the price needed to maintain a cow-calf unit in your herd. If you are a low-cost producer in our area, you can probably produce a 400-pound calf for about $600 (gone are the days of maintaining a cow for $1 a day). Some producers in our area have production costs as high as $750. If this is the case in your herd, you may need to add dollars to each calf.



The price to add pounds to a weaned calf varies with every operation. This fall, most nutritional consultants and several of my clients believe it will take $1-$1.10 to add a pound of gain to weaned calves. I realize that many producers have access to cheaper feedstuffs and can accomplish this gain for less. By early weaning, producers could add 300 pounds to calves and still market them before the first of January. These dollars represent money “left on the table” for backgrounders to reap if calves are sold right off the cow.

The outlook for retained ownership looks good. The background phase appears profitable, but it is not as bright for the finishing phase. Corn prices appear to be the wild card in the scenario. If corn climbs, watch out; but if corn falls, margins will improve. If you have finished your cattle before, you will have a great idea of the feed costs and conversion associated with your cattle. You should be able to calculate exactly what it will cost to finish your calves. Watch the cattle market closely because it is not uncommon for the market to swing $20-$30 per head on a weekly basis.



Another means of adding dollars to your operation is through cull cows. Early pregnancy testing will help identify open cows, allowing producers to sort them along with cows with bad eyes, lumps, lameness and poor udders at weaning time. Early weaning allows producers to add pounds on cornstalks with very little supplementation. Usually the cow market climbs through the fall until about Jan. 1. The extra pounds added to these cows could easily increase their value $100 or more. Use these animals leaving your herd to generate more dollars which will offset the cost of heifer development or replacement cost.

This year we have plenty of feed, but the market for feedstuffs is high. Producers can generate additional dollars by backgrounding their calves and marketing their cows. Visit with your nutritionist, extension specialist or veterinarian to help inventory feedstuffs and calculate the cost of adding pounds to livestock. In a time when the cow-calf producer should see profits, be sure to allow your animals to generate all the profits possible to add capital to the operation.

The rains missed us again. Now, after Labor Day, it looks like crops will mature with no increase in yields. The cool weather has ushered in fall, and in our area the fly population has really increased. With the high price of corn, I was surprised to see many of my clients chopping corn silage. This tells me some them are planning to background their calves to add value.

In the last month we have seen a weakness in feeder calf prices. Some of the early video auctions priced 500-pound calves at $2 per pound for November delivery. What do you think the market will do in the next few months? Hopefully we will see a stabilization of prices after the calves from the southwestern U.S. drought area have made their way into the feedyards.

The price for weaned calves is high this year. The important benchmark to gauge prices is the price needed to maintain a cow-calf unit in your herd. If you are a low-cost producer in our area, you can probably produce a 400-pound calf for about $600 (gone are the days of maintaining a cow for $1 a day). Some producers in our area have production costs as high as $750. If this is the case in your herd, you may need to add dollars to each calf.

The price to add pounds to a weaned calf varies with every operation. This fall, most nutritional consultants and several of my clients believe it will take $1-$1.10 to add a pound of gain to weaned calves. I realize that many producers have access to cheaper feedstuffs and can accomplish this gain for less. By early weaning, producers could add 300 pounds to calves and still market them before the first of January. These dollars represent money “left on the table” for backgrounders to reap if calves are sold right off the cow.

The outlook for retained ownership looks good. The background phase appears profitable, but it is not as bright for the finishing phase. Corn prices appear to be the wild card in the scenario. If corn climbs, watch out; but if corn falls, margins will improve. If you have finished your cattle before, you will have a great idea of the feed costs and conversion associated with your cattle. You should be able to calculate exactly what it will cost to finish your calves. Watch the cattle market closely because it is not uncommon for the market to swing $20-$30 per head on a weekly basis.

Another means of adding dollars to your operation is through cull cows. Early pregnancy testing will help identify open cows, allowing producers to sort them along with cows with bad eyes, lumps, lameness and poor udders at weaning time. Early weaning allows producers to add pounds on cornstalks with very little supplementation. Usually the cow market climbs through the fall until about Jan. 1. The extra pounds added to these cows could easily increase their value $100 or more. Use these animals leaving your herd to generate more dollars which will offset the cost of heifer development or replacement cost.

This year we have plenty of feed, but the market for feedstuffs is high. Producers can generate additional dollars by backgrounding their calves and marketing their cows. Visit with your nutritionist, extension specialist or veterinarian to help inventory feedstuffs and calculate the cost of adding pounds to livestock. In a time when the cow-calf producer should see profits, be sure to allow your animals to generate all the profits possible to add capital to the operation.


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