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Texas AgriLife livestock specialists look for efficiencies

A group of calves at the 2016 Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Convention
<p>A group of calves at the 2016 Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Convention.</p>
More pounds per calf Production goals More pounds per acre

Texas AgriLife livestock experts weighed in recently on how to improve efficiency, how to measure performance and how to use a color-coded system to get more pounds from fewer acres.

Two Extension economists addressed the annual meeting of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, held recently in Fort Worth. Blair Fannin, Texas AgriLife media services, provided updates from TSCRA as well as an update from the McGregor Research Center.

Capturing the most pounds per calf affects bottom line

Mac Young, who works out of Corpus Christi, told a TSCRA audience that purchasing replacement females recently has been an expensive proposition following several years of record high prices.

“Prices for 2016 are obviously higher than 2012. That’s great if you are selling, but not so great if you are buying replacement heifers or cows,” he said. “We’ve seen those record-high prices come down a bit since late last year and you need to do everything you can to put as many pounds on your calves as possible.”

He said a 2014 AgriLife Extension study led by the Farm Assistance program revealed that an all-calf management program could dramatically increase income, he said. 

Cattlemen need a “report card” of key performance indicators

Fannin also covered remarks by Extension economist Stan Bevers, Vernon, who discussed key performance indicators (KPIs) that beef producers can use to measure critical factors in their operations.

Viewed as a report card for a cattle operation, key performance indicators, also known as KPIs, can assist beef producers in measuring factors crucial to an operation.

“KPIs provide a rancher with an analysis of the operation and detail whether the operation is fulfilling the goals of ownership,” Bevers said.

These indicators are especially important in the current weakening cattle market, he said.

For example, Bevers said the development cost of a replacement heifer is a KPI. Hay production cost per ton is also a KPI.

“One of the big reasons for doing this, I was working with a big ranch in Montana,” Bevers told attendees. “The members of the board were pretty big financial gurus. I shot all of this information about the ranching operation to them and they said it was like getting a drink out of a fire hose. They wanted 10 things in about five minutes. That’s where KPIs came into play.

The red, white and blue helps improve cow-calf efficiency

Fannin recently reported on work done by Texas AgriLife’s Dr. Jason Sawyer, McGregor Research Center superintendent, and research associate Barton Johnson. They are using a patriotic color scheme in a cattle production system study aimed to make cow-calf production more efficient and ultimately produce more pounds of beef with fewer acres.

The study is part of a broader scope of research studies led by Texas A&M AgriLife’s Sustainable Solutions for Beef Production Systems, ( ).

Sawyer and Johnson were working with three sets of cows with one quarter Bos Indicus influence. The cattle donned red, white or blue ear tags to help identify which time of the year they calved or will calve.

“The goal of this project is to develop a system that can achieve a 35 percent improvement in pounds of calf weaned per acre,” Sawyer said.

The color tag scheme greatly enhances the ability to track in the field how far along the cows are during the breeding system or if they have failed on the first try to get bred, he said.

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