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Animal Health Notebook

Remove cow depreciation without needing to buy

Alan Newport Heifers on green pasture
You can keep your own heifers and still create a no-depreciation cow herd, but don't forget the vital concepts of low-cost, high-quality production.
The no-depreciation cow herd Wally Olson proclaims can be achieved without buying heifers.

White County, Tennessee, started being settled by white men (John White) in 1806. In less than four decades the area was well populated with farms, a city (Sparta) and multiple villages and communities. There were more than a few cattle and lots of hogs. The soil was deep and running clean clear water was quite plentiful. A major road west came off the Cumberland Plateau and by the Civil War there were numerous schools all the way to colleges. Lots of folks were also moving West.

It was only natural that with the numerous roads and the Caney Fork River and lots of people with livestock and big families and small acreages that trading became a common means of making a living. To this day our county is known to be the home of a lot of men and more than three women that can make a living buying and selling livestock or most anything else you can think of. A common saying around here is that cattle, horses, goats and hogs have four legs so they can jump on and off trailers.

With that idea in mind, my antenna went up when I first read of Oklahoma’s Wally Olson’s thoughts to market cattle before they reached the age of depreciation (5-6 years old). Wally and his wonderful partner, Doris, spent a day with us back in mid-September 2015. I hope they had a good time as we certainly enjoyed the visit. Wally failed to have or take the time to give me all his teaching. But from what I’ve heard his schools are more than worth the fare.

When any of us go to talking about buying and selling cattle the vast majority of beef producers lock up and loose interest. I understand that lots of people buy cattle and end up disappointed to say the least. Many of ya’ll can probably remember my preaching on the need to close you herd. Well, I have not changed my sermon.

I was conversing with Florida’s “Cracker Jack” Scarbourogh the other night. Jack has likely trucked more cracker cattle from Florida to Texas, Arizona, and California than most anyone that is still living outside a nursing home. He asked me how a man could sell all those cows and not have to go buy new inventory?

My answer is that at some point in time the first, second and third calf heifers and many young cows are going to maybe push five year plus cows off the ranch. To make it work long term you would need to keep ’em all for replacements and cull everything that doesn’t work. On a stable market the females should be getting better every year if the beef producer has a closed herd and stays at the top of his game.

We know for a fact that the market is going to swing up and down. This fact takes us back to planned grazing and really low cost production and extremely good animal husbandry and land management practices. Olson’s plan is worth a careful study. Don’t get so carried away as to amnesia of the natural model and the Maker’s principles. Remember that He plays his cards last.

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