Time for the Big ‘O’

It’s that time of year when we start seeing cows and heifers with “O” painted on them. The “O” has been drawn on them as they showed “open” on preg checking day.

While no one likes to see these cows “go to town,” if a calf is not going to be born and weaned the next year, she must be marketed in order to pay the feed bills. The earlier open cows are identified; the more savings are seen on winter feed costs for the main herd. Open cows don’t always mean money is lost. With a marketing plan that is implemented soon enough, open cows may still provide some profit going into winter.

There are lots of decisions to make. First of all, do you sell the open cows right away, do you intensively feed them for a period of time before you sell, or do you throw them into a fall breeding herd and market to a fall calving operation? The seasonal low for open/cull/market cow sales occurs in late fall to early winter. Therefore, in order to increase profit potential, try to identify and sell open cows before October or design a feeding plan that will add weight and set them up for sale after February.

Figure out your break-even price. Start by outlining what cows are worth today, what it will cost to feed cows for a few months and what she will weigh when sold. This will give you an idea of where the price needs to be to cover the cost of feeding her and hopefully make a profit.

• Estimated price October 2019 at $.45 x 1,250 = $562.50.

• Estimated ADG and feed cost 3 pounds per day for 90 days at $1.50/d=270 pounds and $135.

• $562.50 + $135 = $697.50/1520 pounds = $.46 per pound.

• Estimated break-even price in February 2020 at 1,520 pounds = $.46 per pound.

According to the Economic Research Service (ERS) Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook for October 2019, the forecast average price for the first quarter of 2020 will be $.54 per pound.

Depending on the desired body weight and condition to be added to the cow prior to sale, different feeding regimens can be implemented. Consider cost of feedstuffs and availability of those over the feeding period.

Thin cows will need to go on a high energy ration to begin increase in body condition, external fat, intramuscular fat and tenderness at a more efficient rate. Move them from a forage based diet to the high energy diet over a period of days to prevent acidosis. Slowly moving up the energy over two to three weeks for higher daily gains.

With cull/market cow generating 15 to 25 percent of the revenue in a cow/calf enterprise, it is critical to market them wisely and try to make a profit. The best plan comes from doing the homework and make a plan for your operation. Talk to your vet about a high powered implant to make gain even better.

Jody Holthaus48 Posts

Jody Holthaus is the Meadowlark Extension District agent in the area of livestock and natural resources.

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