Teichert shares tips for becoming a more efficient cattle producer
February 20, 2012
Many factors can determine whether or not a livestock operation is successful, but managing production, economics and finance, marketing and people can allow producers to manage risk.
According to Burke Teichert, developing ranching systems that align genetics, nutrition, and breeding with available land and resources can minimize risk. During the Colorado Farm Show, Teichert showed producers some management techniques they can implement to make their operations more efficient and profitable.
People may be one of the most important tools a producer has to manage, Teichert said. “I get asked a lot why we need to manage people when it is just me, the wife and two kids,” he explained. “That is when management may be the most important. It is a lot easier to get mad at each other in families, than in business. People management is important no matter what the setting.”
“In people management, a lot of the work we do is in teams,” he continued. “In addition to family, we rely on our banker, feed salesman, implement dealer and repairman. If we use those people, and structure it correctly, they can help make you more profitable and more efficient. If they are viable members of your team, they will help reduce production risk,” he added.
Managing land and livestock risk is also important in an operation. As a consultant, Teichert said he encourages producers to make continuous improvements to the land to increase carrying capacity. One of the most important techniques is planned time control grazing, which can tremendously increase the carrying capacity of grazing land over a period of time. “The goal is to carry more livestock on the same resource,” he explained. “By having more units of sale on the same resource just through land improvement can make an operation more efficient,” he said.
Good management of grazing land can also have a big payoff during drought, Teichert continued. “If the land is managed correctly, production will still decrease during a drought, but it will bounce back. However, (your production) won’t decrease as much as the neighbor who is not using good grazing practices.”
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To manage risk, Teichert also encourages producers with big enough operations to consider running yearlings. “If there is a drought, you could sell the yearlings rather than dipping into the cow herd,” he explained.
Teichert said he has found time controlled grazing to be an efficient way to manage grazing pastures. “You need to determine how to properly graze each pasture, and develop a recovery period to fit whatever the environment is,” he said. “I like to see full recovery of the grasses after a pasture is grazed before I will graze it again,” he explained. “It is important to allow appropriate recovery, which won’t be the same from year to year because rainfall varies.”
Teichert said producers should be more concerned with how long to rest a pasture after they graze it, than how long to graze each pasture. “Do not graze the pasture over and over the same time every year,” Teichert cautioned. “Vary it each year to get the most utilization out of the grasses. If you are grazing it right, plant diversity will increase, and more water will go into the ground instead of running off or being evaporated. This practice will create more plant variety and a wider variety, with plants richer in protein and plants that will hold their protein longer,” he explained. “The plants will root deeper into the soil, grow longer and produce more during the year which will reduce supplementation,” he said.
Choosing the right cows to fit the resources available is also important, Teichert continued. “Smaller cows will wean a higher percentage of their body weight,” he explained. “Those calves will be a little lighter than the bigger cow’s calves, but they will sell for more money. On a per acre basis, you will make more money because you can run more cows on an acre if they are smaller. The calf is what makes the paycheck,” he stated. “If you want good risk management, do what you can to increase stocking rate.”
Teichert said producers also need to do a better job aligning their cattle with the resources they have available. “My bull management program is out of sight, out of mind,” he said. “The bulls graze through the winter with a little protein supplement. If they can’t pass a BSE test in the spring, they don’t breed cows. I cull them and find bulls that work with the environment. I want bulls that require little care,” he added.
Calving also needs to be matched with the resources available. “To be in sync with Mother Nature, you may need to pay more attention to when the bison calve, rather than elk, deer, and antelope. Cattle cycles are more in sync with bison than these other three animals,” he said.
Producers who calve in February and March will need more protein supplementation to meet nutrient requirements than later calvers. However, Teichert said while it is possible to calve too early, it is also possible to calve too late, and cows are trying to cycle when the nutrient supply in the grass is diminishing. “Try to balance the calving season with when the best resources are available,” he said.
Summarizing his presentation, Teichert presented producers with some “Tips to get to efficient”:
• Buy smaller replacement cows that fit the environment, or raise replacement heifers from cows and bulls that fit the environment.
• Cut inputs – start slowly by shortening the season that the cows are fed. Do it minimally, and then cull the cows that don’t fit the new environment.
• Longevity – Longevity is a function of fertility and fertility is a function of environment. Cull the cows that don’t get pregnant. If pregnancy rates are dropping, try crossbreeding or reduce cow size.
• Breed a lot of heifers for a very short period of time, like 25-30 days. Sell the opens as feeder heifers.
• Have a short calving season and a long breeding season. Leave the bulls in until pregnancy checking, and sell all the late calvers to someone who calves later than you do. Just because they don’t fit your environment, they may fit someone elses.