October. It's right around the corner. This is the time of year that most of you will sell your spring calves. Between now and then, most cow/calf producers will pray for rain and complain about the market. As we all know, in an election year either the Republicans or the Democrats are the reason for the drought.
The coffee shop crowd will search for a culprit to blame for the low market. As usual, pigs, chickens, packers, Mexican cattle, and Richard Simmons will share the limelight. Like it or not, each of these is a part of, or affects, the cattle industry. Praying for rain and complaining about the market does not require thinking or planning; however, these two items determine our success.
What are you planning to do with your spring calves? Most will be sold in what is historically the lowest time of the year. They will be shipped straight off of the cow to the local livestock auction and will shrink 5 to 6% above the traditional 3% "pencil shrink" they would experience if they were sold at the ranch. On a 500 pound calf this equates to about 30 lbs. worth approximately $16. This is more than commission and freight costs.
Regardless of your cow herd size, and contrary to "coffee shop" research, weaned calves can be preconditioned in an economical manner. These calves can be managed to gain an average of 1 lb/hd/day. Adding this gain to the shrink that is controlled is what makes preconditioning an economically viable program for producers willing to plan ahead. Vaccination, supplementation, and adequate quality forage are the key ingredients in a successful preconditioning program.
A Noble Research Institute publication, Preconditioning Calves on Grass addresses this issue in greater detail. A cost/benefit analysis is included enabling producers to project the economic validity of their own preconditioning program. Contact us at 580-223-5810 for your copy. Remember, preconditioning will only work for those that are willing to plan and follow through. As in all things, we reap what we sew.