Perhaps it is just age, but with time, the passing of life seems to be more dominating than the beginning of life. Life is a continuum, neverending, only living. The gospels, full of wisdom and guidance, focus on Christ's teaching, teaching the process of living, not the details of life. Thoughts of the process of conception, human anatomy, circulatory function, etc., are not prevalent. God's design not questioned.
Today, with an aggressive bidding for weigh-up cows and market bulls, why take the risk of pushing a cow an extra year? As condition and body weight decline, so does value, but managerial inputs and labor increase. The bottom line: Cows need to survive, produce and repeat the cycle yearly, with no additional pampering. No exceptions. As we move into the fall season, cattle work begins. Part of that work is culling cows, which is not fun. The cows have dedicated their lives to the operation, but there is no reward.
The cow is the source of production, so keeping her in shape is critical. Today’s point is that cows will regain body condition easier when production demands are low. Also, as a general rule, when the living have adequate food but are limited to little activity, weight gain occurs. If food is bountiful, weight gain will occur even faster. In the case of cows, producers should take advantage of this. As cows go out of production during late lactation and weaning, fall provides an excellent time to put weight on cows.
It was a time to reflect during a trip home to help Dad. After 91 years on the farm, he was moving to an assisted living facility. The night drive across western North Dakota was quite interesting. I remembered all the times I had driven these roads hoping to see another car. Things have changed. The day does not end at sunset anymore because the energy industry just keeps going, so I actually was hoping I wouldn’t see another car or truck.
Got cows to sell? If you do, sell them. You only have to look at the prices to know the market is looking for beef. Producers always have some cows to sell if they want to. Current discussions focus on increasing cow numbers, but it may be ill-advised to change cow culling schemes. When a cow is determined to be market beef, sell her.
Why not more cows? That is a good question because the beef industry is begging for cows. To do that, the cow-calf producer needs more cows to expand, the feedlot producer needs more calves and purveyors need product. Do I keep more cows? That is a difficult question producers must answer. Just how many more is not an easy number to grasp because most beef operations actually try to keep their carrying capacity or stocking rates stable. Stocking rate, or the cow-calf pairs that inhabit the ranch, are set based on the carrying capacity of the particular type of land.
Now is a good time to look at the bull pen, even though it probably is empty. In fact, one would have to wonder why if there is a bull in the pen. For many, the bulls are left on pasture and rounded up with the cows and calves as fall progresses. Throughout the summer, various bulls are moved around or brought home. In some cases, they are injured. In other cases, they simply won’t stay in the pasture.
The use of the word “sustainability” often is an indication that someone is searching for a simple, normal approach to life. In other words, the ability to fit in without the pressures of uncertainty. Is that possible? Can a cattle operation be “sustainable” in the long run or are the dynamics of the world around us too strong? Instead of sustainability, what we really may need is an organized response to ever-present change. As cattle producers, how we respond to the environment is key to our survival. The world is covered with water and plants.
Protecting one’s assets is another term for fall calf vaccinations. One does not need to view very many market reports to understand that the asset value of a calf has gone up. In other words, calves are worth good money. Many things can impact the life of these very valuable calves. Some are unpredictable, such as accidents. Handling facilities can be tuned and care taken in processing the calves, but not all handling impacts are controllable. Sometimes, what the calf is thinking and what the producer wants are so contrary that nothing will soothe the process.
The other day, the Dickinson Research Extension Center became home to an unstoppable force that is going to drill a well. In this case, an oil well. The spot selected is in the middle of a native grass pasture.