Beef Tips

Author: Hannah Williams

October 2019 Feedlot Facts

“Some Thoughts on Calf Revenue”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

The air is now crisp in the morning and it won’t be long before we see the glimmer of ice crystals in the water tank. Many producers are weaning and will be marketing calves in the coming weeks and months. Margins in the cattle industry and agriculture in general are often unfortunately narrow and this year is no exception. Maximizing calf revenue is important for cow/calf producers every year, but is even more important in year’s where the probability of loss is greater than profit. Calf revenue from my academic perspective is driven by 3 factors, 1.) the number of calves sold, 2.) sale weight of calves and 3.) price received. Cow/calf producers to some extent have control over the number of calves sold and sale weight. The number of calves sold is essentially a function of stocking rate, cow fertility and/or reproduction on an operation. The sale weight of calves is more complex but is a multi-factorial combination of genetics, calving distribution, calf age, nutrition, management and technology use (implants). Price received is likely the most influential of the 3 factors that drive calf revenue and is the factor that cow/calf producers often believe they have the least ability to control. Once a set of calves, enters the sale ring, or appears on the video screen their value is determined by what 2 prospective buyers are willing to pay. Although it is impossible for producers to directly influence what buyers are willing to pay, I would argue that they are not completely helpless. Cow/calf producers directly control what they will sell (weaned calves, value-added calves or feeders), and determine when they will sell. These are difficult, complex decisions, that shouldn’t necessarily be made based upon weekly cattle sale reports or the thoughts of your favorite livestock market commentator. I am not saying that keeping informed about current market conditions isn’t important. However, that information when used with resources like Beef Basis ( that use data to evaluate different market scenarios, from selling 6 weight calves the first week of December, to 7 weights in February helps producers make the best decision for their operations. Producers also control what information or data they pass along to the new owner. We all know that data has value in today’s world. I like to compare marketing calves to selling a beautifully restored pickup. If you were selling a pickup, you would share with a prospective buyer every bit of information you had and the details of the process, from the atmospheric conditions when the truck was painted to the actual sales invoice from 1972. Why should selling a set of calves be any different? Value added programs and certified sales provide potential buyers with some degree of assurance that your cattle were managed within the guidelines of the program. If you don’t participate in a defined program, providing the auctioneer or sales representative with as much information as possible about your cattle only helps them do their job better which is to get best price for your cattle.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

October 2019 Management Minute

“Good Help is Hard to Find”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

“Good help is hard to find” which alternatively means that the “good help we have is worth retaining”. I recently had a conversation with a colleague who is changing positions, as we discussed some of the challenges associated with the transition, from selling a house, to placing children in a new school. I found myself considering why do good people leave positions? Given the magnitude of the challenges associated with making a professional change. In some instances, people do get the opportunity to pursue their dream job. In other situations, life circumstances such as children or being closer to family are cited as common reasons. However, according to the most common people leave jobs are ultimately related to factors within the workplace, such as a bad boss or supervisor, lack of trust within the organization, failing to recognize the employee’s contributions or strengths, or the inability to use their skills. Many of these reasons come down to job satisfaction, and creating an environment where people want to come to work. We spend roughly 1/3 of our day at work, so creating a positive work environment, where employees feel valued and trust that supervisors and the organization cares about them can go along way towards retaining the good help we have today.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

September 2019 Feedlot Facts

“Silage Harvest is Underway; Be Safe”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

One of the busiest, most fast paced operations that occur this time of year is silage harvest. Cutters and choppers in the fields, trucks racing from the field to the pile or bunker, multiple tractors pushing and packing silage. The speed at which we can harvest silage today is amazing, but we should never allow the speed at which can accomplish a task to compromise safety. Below are a few things to think about during this year’s silage harvest.

  • Don’t become complacent. Stay aware of your surroundings. Let’s face it: there are a lot of highly repetitive operations in putting up silage. One of the number one factors that lead up to an accident is complacency, or lack of situational awareness.
  • Truck drivers should always slow down when approaching houses and intersections on all roads, every time. Those houses along the road belong to our neighbors and friends, some of which have children. The increased traffic on gravel roads creates dust, and the crops are tall, both of which reduce visibility at intersections. Our neighbors should not fear going to their mailbox due to our silage trucks.
  • People (especially children) should never be allowed near a drive-over pile or bunker silo during filling. If people have to approach the area, get on the radio to inform the drivers/operators that people are on foot. Those on the ground in the area should always wear a bright colored safety vest.
  • Never fill higher than the top of the bunker wall. This happens more than it should and creates a dangerous situation from the day the silage is packed until it is removed. The pack tractor cannot see the edge of the bunker well, if at all. The silage does not get packed well (which leads to poor silage) and the edge of the silage is unstable and more likely to collapse. Don’t do it.
  • Be aware of steep slopes. To reduce the risk of tractor roll-over, a minimum slope of 1 in 3 on the sides and end of piles should be maintained.
  • Never inspect or make repairs to equipment near the bunker or pile. Equipment should be removed from the area as soon as possible. Repairs almost always involve people on foot and potentially people who may not be familiar with silage activities and the associated risks.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

September 2019 Management Minute

“Are you a Manager or a Leader?”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

I recently came across an article that contrasted management and leadership (Learning for future and personal and business success by Bob Milligan). Many of you, like myself, who always arrive at the most logical conclusion quickly are likely saying “a manager is a leader” and, yes, that is true. However, there is a difference between the roles and responsibilities of managers and leaders. Leaders give an organization direction. Leaders focus on the future by motivating individuals or groups of individuals. Managers tend to be less focused on the future, and more on the here and now. Managers organize, plan, budget and ultimately implement the vision of the leader. Are you a leader or a manager? Is it possible to be both? As organizations and businesses grow larger, structure becomes more important because of the established fact that it is “hard to see tomorrow, when you are buried in today.”

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

Region of origin in the United States affects price premiums associated with value-added health protocols of beef calf lots sold through summer video auctions from 2010 through 2018

by Maggie Smith, Graduate Research Assistant

The benefits associated with the incorporation of preconditioning practices are thoroughly understood. Increased management in the form of vaccinating and weaning have proven to reduce the risk of bovine respiratory disease, while increasing immunity and minimizing stress. While extensive research shows that preconditioning programs provide price premiums on a national basis, the effect of management level throughout different regions of the United States has not been examined. Differences in climate, management and marketing strategies, and variation in trucking distance are all regional factors that may influence the health protocol calves receive. With these concerns in mind, it is important to consider that the relative value of a vaccination or health program may be dependent on where the calf is raised.

Continue reading “Region of origin in the United States affects price premiums associated with value-added health protocols of beef calf lots sold through summer video auctions from 2010 through 2018”

Testing feedstuffs, another tool in the management toolbox

by Justin Waggoner, Beef Systems Specialist, Garden City

Many of the challenge’s cattle producers face are essentially about managing variability. Our management decisions/practices are often dictated by changes in weather, markets, genetics, animal performance and many other factors.  There are a variety of tools that have been created to help cattle producers manage different sources of variability and predict animal performance. Today we often think of complex tools like EPDs or genomic testing. However, simple tools such as body condition scoring and analytical testing of feeds are also tools that should be included in this list. Although it is often overlooked, the underlying reason we evaluate the chemical composition of feedstuffs is to gather data that can be used to more efficiently manage our feed resources and more accurately predict animal performance.

Continue reading “Testing feedstuffs, another tool in the management toolbox”

August 2019 Feedlot Facts

“Feedlot Steer Performance in 2018”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Each year I summarize the data from the K-State Focus on Feedlots in an effort to document annual trends in feed cattle performance. The Focus on Feedlot’s data for steers from 2018, 2017 and 2016 is summarized in the table below. In 2018, participating feedlots marketed 349,595 steers, 8497 fewer cattle than were marketed 2017. In weights remained steady, averaging 779 lbs. Final weights of steers increased slightly to 1398 lbs compared to 1387 lbs in 2017. Steers were on feed approximately 173 days, an increase of 9 days from 2017 and 14 days from 2016. Average daily gain and feed conversion were similar across years. Death loss remained steady at 1.58% compared to the 1.52% previously reported in 2017. Reported total cost of gain averaged $78.10/ Cwt. in 2018, an increase of $3.76/Cwt. from 2017.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

August 2019 Management Minute

“Customer Service”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Good customer service is essential to any business or organization. It does not matter if it is a restaurant or a tow truck service, having staff members who leave customers or anyone who encounters your business with that “wow that was great” feeling directly influences the bottom line. Customer service has become more important than ever as more consumers are gathering information and making purchasing decisions based on social media. What is customer service? Customer service is simply defined as the assistance provided by a company to those who purchase the goods or services it provides. Now on to the tough part, how do we as businesses or organizations provide that assistance?

Susan Ward ( offers a few simple things that businesses can do to improve their customer service experiences. First, answer the phone. Potential customers want to talk to a person and don’t want to leave a message. Second, don’t make promises you can’t keep. As the old saying goes “say what you are going to do and do what you said you were going to”. Third, listen. Simply listening to what a potential customer needs is important, there is nothing worse than listening to a sales pitch for something you don’t want. Fourth, be helpful even if you don’t make the sale today. The service provided today has the potential to turn in to something much larger in the future. Fifth, train your staff to do something extra, like showing the customer where the product is located. Lastly, empower your staff to offer something extra without asking permission.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

Management Minute

“Think Safety this Summer, Agriculture is a High Risk Occupation”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Most of you reading this are likely involved in agriculture in some capacity. Do you think being a farmer or rancher is a high risk occupation?

The reality is that farming and ranching is a high risk occupation. A 2017 report from the U. S. Department of Labor contains some staggering statistics and emphasizes the need for safety. There were 5147 fatal workrelated injuries in 2017. Farmers, ranchers, and agriculture managers were the second greatest civilian occupation with regard to fatal work-related injuries; with 258 reported fatalities in 2017.

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Estimated placed cost of gain using the Focus on Feedlots

By: Justin Waggoner, Beef Systems Specialist, Garden City

The K-State Focus on Feedlots has many uses, foremost it provides many of us that are not directly connected with the cattle feeding industry a means of staying abreast of cattle performance and closeout data from commercial feeding operations. Additionally, the data generated may be used to build economic budgets for cattle producers considering retaining ownership or placing a group of cattle on feed as commodity and input prices change. One of the simplest ways to estimate placed cost of gain is to look at the relationship between reported corn price and reported projected cost of gain for steers and heifers. The data obtained from the Focus on Feedlots from 2015, 2016, and 2017 is shown in the graphs below. Continue reading “Estimated placed cost of gain using the Focus on Feedlots”