Recording your Way to Profitability

  • Published: Monday, Dec. 21, 2020

Recording your Way to Profitability

Elizabeth Picking, Livestock Specialist

In the beef cattle industry, profit margins can be slim with the high cost of production. Profitable producers operate by minimizing cost of production or by optimizing performance to sell cattle at a premium. In order to make management decisions to keep cost of production low and/or increase value of sold cattle, producers need to keep good records.

Production records can be kept on a whole-herd basis such as percent of herd pregnant, percent calf crop, average calf weaning weights, and percent of cows culled. These records can draw attention to reproductive, health, and nutrition related short comings or successes within the herd. If a producer has low pregnancy rates, the problem can be focused on. Maybe their bull has low libido, maybe the herd has some issues with reproductively passed diseases like Trich, or maybe the herd’s body condition was lower than it should have been during the breeding season. Looking at some of the big picture measures of performance can help to focus in on where a herd needs to improve.

More individualized records can be of great use when trying to identify trends in production efficiency, and sickness. Keeping records on breed type/genetics, age, calving dates, and health of individual animals can help cattlemen determine which animals to cull and which animals to keep replacement heifers from. Detailed records of symptoms and timeline of illness can help veterinarians determine illness in a herd before it gets out of hand. Keeping detailed individualized records of calving dates and vaccinations received can also help in the marketing of calves.

When it comes to minimizing cost of production, a producer must first know what their cost of production is. Keeping a record of all expenses to generate that calf crop, then dividing it out across the number of cows in the herd gives cattlemen a production cost per cow/year. Expenses for feed and hay will likely be the largest portion of the cost of production however, vaccines, doctoring expenses, mineral, equipment costs/depreciation, and mortgage/lease cost should also be factored into the cost of production. Calculating this number can help to identify if there is room to lower input costs like purchasing a less expensive mineral or if cost of production is high due to herd performance shortcomings like low pregnancy rates or high calf mortality.

Ultimately, record keeping seems like a chore for most producers but should not be a monumental task. Identifying what information should be recorded for an individual herd to evaluate progress and profitability is necessary for goal-reaching. The old saying, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is certainly the case for beef herds. There are many computer programs, excel spreadsheets, phone apps, and paper cattle record books available to suit any producers individual herd goals. Regardless of the medium used, producers need to take a good look at what records they are keeping to make management decisions for a more profitable herd.

For questions about herd record keeping, contact Elizabeth Picking at [email protected] or at 417-256-2391.

Writer: Elizabeth Picking

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Elizabeth Picking

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