You've reached the Virginia Cooperative Extension Newsletter Archive. These files cover more than ten years of newsletters posted on our old website (through April/May 2009), and are provided for historical purposes only. As such, they may contain out-of-date references and broken links.

To see our latest newsletters and current information, visit our website at

Newsletter Archive index:

Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

The Cow-Calf Manager

Livestock Update, August 2005

John B. Hall, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, Virginia Tech

Planning for the Next Part of the Cattle Cycle

The last few years have been great times in the cattle business. A majority of cow-calf operations have been profitable over the last four years. However, cow-calf producers need to strategize in order to maximize sustainability and profitability over the long haul.

There will be many fluctuations in calf prices and profitability over the next few years (just as there has always been in the cattle industry). The US beef cow herd is expanding which means a short-term increase in feeder calf prices followed by an increase in calf and beef supply resulting in falling prices. However, facts about cow-calf operations and certain strategies remain constant across various parts of the cycle. Let's review some of the best strategies.

Who's Profitable - What's Profitable

At the recent Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Meetings in Montana, we had the opportunity to hear Randy Bloch from Cattle Fax. He summarized some of the differences between high (top 1/3) and low profit (lowest 1/3) cow-calf operations from Cattle Fax data.

Strategies for Cow-Calf Operations in the Near Future

Take-Home Message

The beef industry has enjoyed record profitability in recent times, despite being confronted with major issues such as BSE. While the enjoyable ride is expected to continue in the short term, as heifer retention increases and cow herd numbers increase history shows the cattle cycle will turn and prices will soften. Now is the time to gear up for the long-term, and take the necessary steps for future profitability and sustainability. The industry has witnessed remarkable change in a short period of time, and it is likely that change will continue. As this happens, the gap will widen between the most and least profitable. Being a low-cost producer has always been important, and cost control will always be a defining component of a successful beef enterprise. However, practices which can be documented, add value, and have favorable consumer impact provide the most opportunity to increase returns and stay in business.

Visit Virginia Cooperative Extension