Beef Tips

November 2019 Feedlot Facts

“Historical Perspective on Cull Cow Prices”

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

The sale of cull animals is one of the primary sources of revenue on a cow-calf operation, contributing 17- 24% of the gross income reported by cow-calf operators within the Kansas Farm Management Association from 2013-2017. The figure below offers some historical perspective on cull cow prices in Kansas (LMIC, compiled by Robin Reid). Cull cow prices are seasonal, being lowest in the months of October, November, December, and typically increase in March and then remain steady during the summer months.

The relative difference between the market low and high, based on the 5- and 15-year average prices illustrated in the graph is approximately $10-$15/cwt. Thus, the market value of a cull cow increases $10- $15/cwt. from November to March. A 1,300-lb. cow sold in November at $40/cwt. would generate $520 while the same cow, if sold in March at $55/cwt., would generate $715, a difference of $195.

Although, the cull cow market has been relatively soft in 2019 and we cannot foresee what the market will be in 2020, the historical data indicates that cull cow values typically increase over the winter. The question then becomes whether the increase in value is substantial enough to justify holding onto those cows for an additional 120 days.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

November 2019 Management Minute

“The Power of Praise”

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

Praise is likely one of the most powerful tools in the toolbox of any manager, leader or educator. I recently came across a summary of a research project conducted by Elizabeth Hurlock, which illustrates the power of praise in the book “How Full is Your Bucket” by Tom Rath and Don Clifton. This experiment evaluated the subsequent math scores of students who received different types of feedback (control, praise, criticism, or ignored) regarding their work in the classroom. Initially, the math scores of students who were praised or criticized for their work were similar. However, by day five of the experiment, the relative improvement in the scores of students who were praised improved by 71%, while those that were criticized improved 19% and those that were ignored improved only 5%. What surprised me the most about this study was that it was conducted in 1925, 94 years ago. Praise is a powerful tool that can be used to motivate all of us to do what we do better and that should not be overlooked.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

Determine value of gain with BeefBasis.com tool to aid marketing decisions

by Dale Blasi, stocker, forages, nutrition and management specialist

Cow/calf producers who may be considering the retention of their calf crop and adding weight (and additional value) for a short period of time rather than marketing calves directly off the cow are encouraged to consider using Beefbasis.com to assist in their decision making process. Beefbasis.com is the result of a partnership with the Department of Agricultural Economics, USDA’s Risk Management Agency and Custom Ag Solutions, Inc and was developed because of the recognized volatility of basis of the futures markets to lighter weight calves. Continue reading “Determine value of gain with BeefBasis.com tool to aid marketing decisions”

An Itchy Situation, Managing Lice in our Cattle Herds

By A.J. Tarpoff, DVM, MS, extension veterinarian

Cattle lice infections can affect the health and performance of our cows, stockers, and feedlot cattle during the winter months. These months generally range from December through March. The USDA has estimated that livestock producers lose up to $125 million per year due to effects of lice infestations. Not only can they be the cause of direct animal performance losses, but also increases wear and tear on our facilities and fences. The direct losses to cattle come in forms of decreased average daily gains (documented 0.25 lbs/day reduction in growing calves), skin infections, and potentially blood loss and anemia. Continue reading “An Itchy Situation, Managing Lice in our Cattle Herds”

Using Data to Identify Management Practice Impact on Profitability

By Kevin Herbel, Executive Director – KFMA Program

The Kansas Farm Management Association (KFMA) has worked together with cow-calf producers keeping records of the cow-calf enterprise for many years. This has allowed for analysis and assessment of the cow-calf enterprise on individual operations.  The data available through this process has provided the opportunity for benchmarking to be completed against the averages and against the data based on profitability levels.  Reports have included looking at differences between high-, medium-, and low-profit producers, with the most recent report covering cow-calf enterprises in the KFMA database from 2014-2018 (http://agmanager.info/livestock-meat/production-economics/differences-between-high-medium-and-low-profit-cow-calf-1). Continue reading “Using Data to Identify Management Practice Impact on Profitability”

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 (www.beefbasis.com) 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 jwaggon@ksu.edu.

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 www.thebalancecareer.com 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 jwaggon@ksu.edu.

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 jwaggon@ksu.edu.

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 jwaggon@ksu.edu.