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Animal Health Notebook
Medium-sized steers on pasture Alan Newport
Author like the higher price and pasture effects of keeping steers until they are big and heavy.

I prefer selling calves as big yearlings

Whatever the age of cattle, if managed properly they put back most of the nutrients they consume.

There are beef producers who likely need to sell calves but I recommend selling big yearlings.

There are also producers who like selling hay but I doubt you’ll find multi-generation success stories in the hay-selling business, which is true of most “mining” operations. You cannot remove a resource that is not easy or possible to replace for any length of time without being required to move.

Walt Davis in his book “How To Not Go Broke Ranching” lists what a big steer removes from the land. If he weighs 800 pounds these figures should be real close to what he consists of:

  • 672 pounds of water
  • 7.2 pounds of calcium
  • 4 pounds of phosphorus
  • 3.2 pounds of potassium
  • 1 pound of magnesium and trace minerals
  • 80 pounds of carbon
  • 48 pounds of hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen

Note that all but 15.5 pounds came from the air above our land. If we own and pay taxes on the land or rent it, I could argue that we get for free the air above it, the sunlight, and the water that falls from the sky. We buy high-magnesium lime, delivered and dumped, for $10 per ton and it contains a little zinc and a few other trace minerals.

Remember I don’t like selling 500-pound calves.

I like selling healthy yearlings that have been weaned and grazed for 120 or more days in a high-animal-density grazing program that includes at least one move every day onto fresh forage that has completely recovered for 10 or more weeks.

Think about it: The health concerns are few and the market is normally at climax between late July and mid-September. Charley Chambers up in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, told me the other day that he had contracted a couple of loads of steers to weigh 800 pounds back in late May for a mid-August delivery. He locked them in at $1.51 per pound or $1,200.00. In other words an 800-pound steer will clear a cow in 20 months or so.

Most importantly the yearlings only account for a couple of bucks of our land resource in the form of minerals and will likely have processed and delivered 5,700 pounds of forage dry matter into quality soil and plant food.

His mamma also processed and delivered close to 8,000 pounds of plant food while he was in the calf phase. Boom and bust grazing techniques result in the cattle processing, delivering and spreading the vast majority of plant and soil food.

I like selling big yearlings. (By the way so did Mississippi grazier Gordon Hazard, and he had a proven track record of profitability.)

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