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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

The Cow-Calf Manager

Livestock Update, January 2007

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

Education and Planning Keys to Success

As we enter 2007, there are many factors influencing the cow-calf sector.  High corn prices, falling feeder calf prices, a dry fall (in some locations), and a new farm bill will all impact cow-calf producers in the future.  Over the last few years, cow-calf operations benefited from exceptionally good feeder calf prices.  As we move into the “Ethanol Era”, feed prices will be affected by demand for corn for fuel production as well as feed grain exports.  The result in the short-term is higher feed prices and increased cost of gains for the feedlot sector which usually translates into reduced feeder cattle prices.  Certainly, we’ve seen that scenario play out this fall.  Cow-calf producers should begin planning their production strategies around calves selling in the $80’s - $90’s / cwt range for a while.

Getting a handle on cost of production as well as increasing efficiency and marketing savvy will be important to future profitability.  Fortunately, there are many opportunities in the next few months to increase your knowledge in many areas of cow-calf production.  Here are some suggested goals and meetings that relate to those goals.

1. Improve Your Understanding of the Industry
The US beef industry is a global enterprise.  Better understanding of the other sectors of the industry will help cow-calf producers establish goals and benchmarks to make them a profitable part of the industry.  Increased networking across the nation will be essential for the Virginia Beef Industry.

Attending national, state and local meetings is an excellent way to learn more about our industry.  Remember these meetings should not just be a vacation for the older generation in the operation.  It is essential that the 20 to 40 year-olds attend these meetings.  These future leaders need to be engaged now!


2. Increase Your Production and Marketing Skills
Becoming better at producing cattle and beef the market wants as well as considering value-added production and marketing options will be important over the next 10 years.  Making value-added replacement heifers and certified (VQA) feeder cattle will be important options.  Improving and remaining current in other aspects of production management such as health, genetics, and nutrition are also important.


3. Decrease Production Costs
Knowing and strategically reducing production costs is critical to maintaining profitability.  Feed costs are 60-70% of all cow costs.  Focusing on improving cow nutrition and pasture management should be a primary area.


These are only a few of the many educational opportunities for beef producers in our area.  Take advantage of several of these meetings over the next few months.  Here’s looking forward to a great 2007.


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