Cattle Today

Cattle Today

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Jay Nixon

Ann is one of those very fortunate people who inherited some land and cattle, enough of both to make an economic unit. But unlike many who can say the same, Ann had the temerity and the guts to settle in and become an excellent manager of what she inherited.

She was basically a city girl who had spent little more than weekends and summers on the family ranch but who enjoyed the cattle, horses and the people who worked with them. When circumstances mandated that she assume control of the property, she decided to become an active, resident, hands on manager.

It was an intimidating decision, and it didn't take her long to realize how little she really knew about what she had gotten herself into. She knew that the ranch had never been consistently profitable but thought with the right mix of businesses and better management it could be.

Ann is a businesswoman. She first got a handle on the cost of operation and then began visiting with area ranchers she knew who were running profitable operations. There were several in the area, and she demonstrated a real knack for listening to those who were more business oriented. It didn't take long before she realized that her cow herd left much to be desired in terms of calving percentages and the weight and price of the calves she was selling.

She soon began packaging and selling her cows and replacing them with females that were much more productive, all Brangus from ranches all over the southern part of Texas. Her research had told her that not only were Brangus females consistently more productive than most other cows indigenous to the area, but, because of their color alone, their calves brought consistently higher prices. Within three years, she had entirely replaced the herd with mid-age Brangus cows.

Ann is one of those fortunate people with a natural eye for cattle, and once the differences were explained to her, she could spot the good ones and recognized those that weren't so good.

She also installed a complete individual cow records system that told her every year how every cow in the herd had done from the standpoint of productivity. Once this was in place, she knew, not guessed, what every cow brought to the pen, and she began to cull and replace ruthlessly.

She did the same with the help, and in short order had an operation that ran like a well-oiled machine -- to her specifications. Profits grew, year by year, and were consistently higher than they had ever been before. But Ann wasn't through.

She meticulously analyzed every phase of her operation. She attended Stan Parson's Ranching for Profit School and in short order had begun a controlled rotational grazing program that increased her carrying capacity and made her ranch relatively drought resistant. She quit haying, sold her equipment and began buying hay in the field when it was plentiful. It cost less in the long run. She quit cowboying the cattle all together, and soon had them so that any pasture could be penned with the horn on the feed truck.

She put in a good, solid preventive medicine program and cut veterinary costs in half. A better handle on nutrition and annual cow vaccination increased her calving percentage by ten percent.

She began operating according to a plan developed at the beginning of each year and stuck to it as closely as possible. In short, she completely turned the ranch around within five years of taking over.

Her only problem was in marketing. She didn't believe she was getting all she could be getting for her calves. That's when I met her. She called one day and we talked. I went to the ranch and looked at her cattle, and she told me what she had done and what she had planned, but said she wasn't satisfied with the price she was getting on her calves.

I recommended that she buy some Chiangus bulls and try them on a set of cows. I told her that she did indeed have a super-productive cow herd, but that in my opinion, terminal sire bulls would add greatly to calf weights and calf quality -- read price per pound.

She wasn't sure she wanted to do this. She was pretty well committed to a straight-bred program, but in the end, I did get her five Chiangus sires which she ran with the rest of her bull battery. I told her she wouldn't have any trouble telling which calves were out of the terminal sires. When the calves were on the ground, she agreed.

I then introduced her to James Henderson at B3R Country Meats, one of the nation's up and coming branded beef organization's. Henderson agreed to take her Chiangus sired calves and a like number of straight-breds, put them through the program and send her feeding and carcass data on each individual steer.

While a few of the straight-bred steers in the group earned bonuses under the B3R evaluation system, every one of the steers by the terminal sires produced bonus dollars.

In the years since, Ann has been adding to her Chiangus bull battery, and her marketing problem is solved. By retaining ownership in her calves, she learned just what to expect of them in the feed lot and in the packing house. This gives her the flexibility to market her production at any point in its growth cycle that will produce the return she requires. If the feeder market is high, she can sell her calves after preconditioning for top dollar. If calf prices aren't high enough to produce an adequate return, she can feed them and carry them to the rail without a qualm.

She still hasn't gone to a straight terminal sire program. I haven't yet been able to convince her that she shouldn't produce her own replacement females. She worries that she won't be able to find the right kind of Brangus females to replace the cows she has to cull.

They are out there, though, the good ones. And she would be much better off buying her replacements from good Brangus operations that are specializing in producing them.


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