Farm and Ranch
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
By Rayford Pullen
Oct 23, 2018
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Our first frost of the year usually arrives in mid-November, which means forage quality will be dropping soon.  How soon is soon?  Around our place we figure we need to begin protein supplementation 2-4 weeks after our first killing freeze.  Iím not really sure how quickly our grasses lose their food value after a freeze but we like to begin feeding around December 15 hopefully wind up about 100 days later. 

Our winter-feeding program consist of supplementing with protein either liquid or dry and since we have native grasses and a conservative stocking rate, we do not feed hay except to the calves we are developing as future herd sires.  With that said, our winter feed cost is usually in the $50.00 per head range for 100 days for cows that are going into the winter in pretty good condition.

Doing the math, you can see what you are losing on those cows that are not bred or nursing a calf which makes it ever more imperative to identify those cows that are not paying their own way.  The calves you do get to sell will have to make up the difference on those cows that are just eating and not raising a calf on an annual basis.  With the current cattle market, there is not much room for error. 

What affects your and mine bottom line more than a good accountant?  Letís take a look at our expenses and income over the course of a year and see where we stand.

Our costs:
-Replacement females
-Essentials (i.e. 4 wheelers, tractors, RTVs, pickups, tractors, and other metal)

-Calves sold
-Cows sold

The average herd size is in the 50-head range across the U.S. but in this example, we will assume everyone has 100 cows.
Total Income from calves sold from a 90 % weaning rate, the average is about 86% in Texas, is some where around $900.00 for 600-pound steers, and $800.00 for 575-pound heifers for a total of $76,500.  This gives us a total return per exposed cow of $765.00. So if we replace one bull per year at $3,000.00 or $30.00 per cow, leases costing $200.00 per cow, feed at $50.00, fuel at $20.00 with fertilizer included in lease amount.

We now have $300.00 in out of pocket price expense annually while paying on a 5 year note for cows or about $250.00 per cow for a new total of $550.00 per cow or $612.00 per weaned calf.  That leaves us about $153.00 per calf sold to bale or purchase hay if needed and our other essentials. While these numbers are just my guesstimates, feel free to insert your own.

Your accountant will have a field day with depreciation which will be your saving grace on making being in the cattle business the best days of your life.  I mention all this in an effort to get us all to take a hard look at the economics we are facing and knowing that during had times, it may not be a good as we would like it but when the sun sets, we realize that our tax benefits and breaks may be the only money we make in some years.

Being the eternal optimists, I know things will get better at some point in time as it has done in all the years I have been in this business.  We need each up to survive in the long haul and sharing info with each other may help us all.

Thanksgiving will be coming up before long and my oh my, all the things we have to be thankful for are certainly evident when we see whatís going on in other parts of the world and our own country.  As I watch all this politically correct non-sense I always seem to think about what all those folks are doing for the welfare of their own families and our nation.  What do they make or produce that sustains us?  Iím still wondering.  I guess living out in the country has its benefits as we can be one with nature where things all seem to work out despite our attempts to change things.
Itís a great time to be in the cattle business and be in touch with nature.