According to the USDA, over 1000 cattle producers (ranchers) go broke every month. This is not new. It has been happening for dozens of years. Everyone with a $3 Chinese calculator knows that the sucking away of profits in multiple taxes continually eats away on every family in agriculture. But the giant government sucking-machine isn’t the only culprit. Other mistakes aid and abet in every rancher's demise
Sometimes bankers push borrowers to make quick sales at the wrong time. They may have never owned a single steer--but they can drop the hammer on a rancher and demand a pay back at absolutely the wrong time. Sometimes the profit would be much larger if the rancher held on until the perfect marketing time. Yet, the banker may be the boss.
A lot of other mistakes make 1000 good hard-working families go under every month. This article isn’t long enough to make a complete list. Let's deal with just one easy piece of a beef-eater’s pie.
All ranchers should feed-out their steers.
Most producers sell commercial beef calves in the Fall at auction and seldom know who the new buyer is. They don’t know if the steers were efficient, how they fed, or how they cut. The buyer doesn’t know where the good or bad steers came from in order to either go buy more or never buy there again. All forms of information die with each transfer of ownership. This disconnect for the beef industry costs millions. By contrast, the pork and poultry people are far wiser than cattle ranchers. When passing a truckload of chickens with feathers flying, the processor knows who the grower is and the grower knows where the hatchery is. Good or bad, they know “whodunnit.” That is big.
Feeding home-grown steers allows the owner to evaluate every sire and maternal line for efficiency and gain. It eliminates some middle people and allows the rancher to go directly to a retail-finished steer market--which is now at the highest price in history. Every genetic flaw is right there in front of owners to consider for corrections. The weighing, measuring, and end-line evaluation are blatantly visual.
Here at DCC, we home-raise our steers on feed year ’round. We know which animals gain on a 20-day warm-up and a 100-day shelled-corn diet. We have seen some families gain less than a pound a day and some well up in the mid-four-plus pounds per day. We know who they are--and we hold a grudge against free-loaders. We hate them. This attitude affects sire selection and the retention of cows in the herd. It tells a lot about which matings and genetics will move the herd forward. Our data is very important to DCC, but all serious ranchers need to have their own data to evaluate the family herd.
Here is data from 6 steers processed August 1, all bred, fed, and raised at DCC, all purebred Texas Longhorns.
|Point To Beat||1206||2.96|
|Jump The Line||1304||3.58|
A few years ago, DCC was seeing a daily gain up to nearly 3 pounds, but we wanted better. A year or so ago, the steers started averaging 3 to 3.1 pounds daily gain. This group of six steers in 2022 averaged 3.42 pounds per day, all being fed the same way at the same place.
Sires of the best-gaining steers have one thing in common: when viewed from the rear, things look big.
The browse-utilization percentage is another great profit criterion. At DCC, we do not creep-feed cattle. Steers are weaned, then live in some of the rougher pastures eating a lot of browse and all kinds of fibers. Every pound of browse a Texas Longhorn eats eliminates the cost of grain and quality hay or grass. The greater the natural desire to eat tree leaves and browse, the more the profit--and the more cattle capacity per acre.
A neighbor who raises generic non-colored cattle asked, “How quick can Texas Longhorns get to 1250 lbs?” That is the wrong question and one misunderstood by thousands of good people who are losing their ranches. The question should be “How economically can they get to 1250 pounds and then grade a lean, low choice?”
Feed-out your own steers and you will know the answers.