Drought conditions across the country this year remind us of the importance of a drought management plan. Diversifying a cow-calf operation with a backgrounding enterprise could be part of a drought mitigation strategy as backgrounded cattle can be sold or move to a feedlot to free up feed supplies or pasture for the cow herd. While backgrounding may not be an option of many producers this year due to tight feed supplies, now might be a good time to start thinking if this strategy fits your operation.
The Beef Cattle Research Council’s Preconditioning and Backgrounding Calculator (download the .xlxs file) is designed to identify economic opportunities and risks from preconditioning or backgrounding cattle. The calculator has recently been updated to allow more flexibility in price projections. The cattle price index database embedded in the calculator is updated with the latest five-year (2016-2020) provincial data from British Columbia to Quebec.
Low calf prices, low feed costs and good grass conditions make hardy arguments for retained ownership. Depending on the market in your area, it could make economic sense to hold on to calves a bit longer this year. The Beef Cattle Research Council’s Preconditioning Calculator is a decision-making tool designed to identify economic opportunities and risks from adding a preconditioning program to traditional management.
The BCRC preconditioning topic page provides an overview on the advantages of preconditioning for animal health. Preconditioned calves may return higher gross revenues because they sell at higher weights. They often have lower cost of gain at the feedlot, improved feed efficiency, require fewer treatments and have lower death loss; for these reasons, preconditioned calves may be sold with an added premium. These higher revenues may however come with added costs.
The disadvantages of preconditioning? It costs more to retain ownership, through added feed and labour. Greater input costs don’t necessarily mean margins will shrink though. The balance of net returns will depend on both the cost of retained ownership as well as the projected price at a later sale date. These are unique to each operation.
Deciding if preconditioning makes economic sense? That’s where the decision-making tool can help. The calculator provides a summary of estimated net returns and projected breakeven price premiums based on your costs for up to three different preconditioning programs. While the length of preconditioning programs can be adjusted in the calculator, typical time periods are 30, 45 or 60 days. The tool has a built-in database going back 10 years for price projection comparisons. Continue reading →
The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is made up of producer members from across Canada, representing and appointed by each of the provincial beef organizations that allocate part of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off to research. The number of members from each province is proportional to the amount of provincial allocation to research.
The following is part two in a series to introduce you to this group of innovative thinkers that set BCRC’s direction by sharing practices, strategies, or technologies that they have integrated into their own operations. Read part one of this series.
Conditions and circumstances across the country may vary but these three beef producers have found value in adjusting common management practices to work successfully on their operation.
Utilizing Different Calving Seasons
Fred Lozeman – Alberta
Fred and his family own and operate a mixed farm near Claresholm, Alberta at the base of the Porcupine Hills. Along with a spring and fall calving herd they operate a feedlot, finishing their own calves, as well as around 1,500 head of purchased cattle. They also grow most of the feed required for the feedlot and cow-calf operation. Continue reading →
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the September 2017 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Weed seeds and invasive species may be present even in well-managed pastures and rangelands, but it is hard for them to germinate, establish and spread in healthy, competitive forage stands. Stresses like severe drought, overgrazing, heavy traffic or excavation can weaken forage stands and create opportunities for unwanted plants to take root.
Researchers are now studying whether similar principles may apply to animal health and disease processes. For example, calves that were perfectly healthy on the farm can face a serious risk of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) in the feedlot after experiencing the stresses of weaning, commingling, transportation and ration changes. Dr. Trevor Alexander of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research Station and collaborators from the University of Calgary are studying bacterial populations (the microbiota) in the respiratory tract of feedlot cattle. They published the results of a small study supported by the Beef Research Cluster earlier this year (The nasopharyngeal microbiota of beef cattle before and after transport to a feedlot; BMC Microbiology 17:70).
What they did: Little is known about what the “normal” respiratory microbiota looks like in cattle, let alone how it changes in response to any given stress. Because exposing calves to multiple stresses at the same time may have produced large, complex, difficult to interpret changes in the microbiota, this team focused on the effects of simply moving cattle from the home farm into the feedlot. They used 14 Angus x Hereford heifer calves (640 lbs) from Continue reading →
With Fall around the corner, it’s a good time to (re)consider a few production practices. These 5 articles are full of ideas, scientific evidence, producer testimonials and interactive calculators. By taking a closer look at their options and potential, you may discover more ways to benefit your herd and bottom line.
Feed cows, not worms
Managing internal parasites Internal parasites can be much more detrimental to your bottom line than you may realize. Effective parasite control can have a greater economic impact on cow calf operations than many other management procedures. To learn more about the options for internal parasite control and how to prevent resistance to dewormers:
Reduce sickness and sell more pounds Preconditioning
By spreading out the stressors that normally occur at weaning (change in diet, vaccination, transport, etc.), calves gain more weight per dollar. Does that mean
net profits for cow-calf producers? See for yourself
by Continue reading →
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2016 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
There is no shortage of beef industry conferences, workshops and meetings for Canadian beef producers to attend throughout the year. These have included the Canfax forum, the Canada Beef forum, Cattlemen’s Young Leaders forums, industry golf tournaments, tours, national, provincial and breed association meetings, the International Livestock Congress, and many more. Although they are valuable events, it is hard for producers to attend every event they might wish to. It can also be frustrating when similar speakers or themes get addressed at several different meetings, and busy producers take extra time away from their operations to hear the same presentations multiple times. The last thing anyone needs is to make time for yet another industry event.
The ways cow-calf producers manage their calves can have a big impact on how well they’ll perform on feed and whether they end up in the feedlot’s sick pen.
Join this free webinar for practical tips and strategies to increase fed calves’ productivity by lowering their stress and disease susceptibility. This session will also walk through the economics to help producers better understand how and when the extra efforts improve their own profitability.