In my last post I concluded it was time for a change. Man, if only it were that easy. In typical Doug fashion I had to screw up worse, before I could correct it.
Those open yearlings were a drain on me. I finally brought them home and put them on full feed. I sold them as fat heifers. I asked dad why did why he made me run them without a bull. He told me it was because grandpa never believed in breeding yearlings because it fended off calving problems. I was like damn, I can’t take the financial drain right now.
Two things happened. First all yearling heifers were exposed after that. Second, those heifers that I fed out were the first group of home raised calves that we fed. I got carcass data back on them and was pleasantly surprised how they did. That made me greedy
I was in the process of starting and building a registered herd of Angus and Maine Anjou cattle. I chased the show trend with the Maines and the carcass/growth with the Angus. At that time I was indoctrinated on Beef magazine, Drovers, and Angus Journal. (Today I would recommend no one read them) Anyway I got into what they were promoting. I started to age and source my cattle. I fell for one of their articles. It said that for a cow to produce a steer that would weigh 1500 pounds and grow like a weed, the cow herself had to be 1500# or bigger.
I used AI to breed in growth and carcass traits. The calves did super. Problem is I found out I could not keep a cow with those genetics on forage alone. I had bred her up to be a pig in a cow suit. She needed inputs. No big deal. All the other registered cattle breeders feed their cows. I have to too, in order to be compete with them
When those same genetics entered my commercial herd, I had had it. Now I was serious about change. I met Kit Pharo for the first time this year. I wish I met him when I was in my twenties. I could have saved myself heart ache and money. I will say this. The twenty year old me would never have listened to him anyway. The thirty year old me wishes I had. So if you get the opportunity to hear him speak, go. Until then there are Youtube videos of him. Check them out.
So I made big cows that made super feedlot calves. Problem is we were feeding the cows 7 months out of the year. When you feed cows you work for them. They do not work for you. I started slowly taking feed away from them. First I made the graze corn stalks in the fall only getting hay every other day, but they got tubs. Then a couple years later they got no hay. At calving time they were getting silage and hay and tubs. I eventually took the hay and the tubs away.
Here’s the thing. When I started making feed more scarce, and making them go graze for it, I started having skinny open cows. They got culled off, as you can imagine. Each year I made it harder for my cows. I stopped making culling decisions based on carcass data and making those decisions on pregnancy, and the cows fleshing ability. The look of my herd started changing in a hurry. I went from 1600# plus cows to 1300# cows. And they are not really too fancy to look at. Thing is they are bred at the end of breeding season. They do not get hay, unless of a blizzard. They do get silage during calving. Otherwise all I give them is mineral.
Supplement feeding is giving them a small bit of what they need, like mineral. Substitute feeding is replacing energy or protein with another feed source, like hay, or tubs. When you substitute feed you are working for the cows, and the feed salesman.
So the rubber meets the road. Last year I finally got to where I want to be. I cut WAY MORE than $100 head off my cow costs, at a time of record calf prices! I charge myself for the calves what it would cost me to buy them in a salebarn the week I wean them. I cut my cow cost so low I will still make a sizeable profit this year! Ido want to stress this however, you can not starve a profit into a business. So use some logic.One other thing I did was make early weaning normal every year. I can make a three weight grow into a five weight cheaper than the cow can. It is expensive to let the cow raise her calf. I only need her to produce the calf. When she gets weaned and dries up her feed requirements sink like a rock. Saving me money, big time.
I got a lot of gruff from my family for my changes, even though they no longer owned any cattle. Whenever I give a speech I stress this, it is not learning new things that is hard. It is the letting go of old ideas that is hard.