October 2014
Feeding Facts

Get With the Program

This time of the year is the beginning of my favorite time of the year. Soon the crisp fall nights will start rolling in, Friday night high school football, Saturdays on the Plains or the Capstone, and the beginning of hunting season all bring joy to this country boy’s heart. Crop harvest has begun and farmers are reaping the benefit of good weather and proper management.

I really enjoy following high school and college football. In recent years, we have heard catch phrases from coaches such as "all in," "the system" and "the process." To be successful, all of these phrases are true. Success surely comes from implementing these philosophies. That has been evidenced by the successes of college teams in our state.

However, these principles also are true for nearly anything we do. They are principles we need to embrace and use in our livestock production systems. These principles require that we set goals and methods to reach these goals.

For cow-calf operations, a set calving season and vaccination and nutrition programs are vital. You can also throw in marketing programs to help maximize profits. For these goals to be reached, a rigid written plan needs to be in place. The smaller details of this plan need to be adaptable and nimble, and have the ability to be changed quickly.

Stocker operators need to evaluate the size cattle they want to start and the weight at which they want to market those cattle. They must decide if they want to graze those cattle or dry lot them. Those decisions will dictate their goal for average daily gain. Many of the vaccination programs are dictated by the particular market where these cattle will be sold. In this phase of beef production, producers have to be concerned with the body condition of the cattle when sold. Cattle that are too fleshy when marketed will likely be discounted because of potential poor performance in the feed yard.

From a feed standpoint, there are more options out there than fleas on a yard dog. There are cheap feeds, premium feeds, all-natural feeds and intake limiting feeds. In fact, there are so many different types of feed that it can get downright confusing which feed you should use. Ah, here is where the above paragraphs come in. The feed you use should be dictated by your program or plan. Any quality feed retailer should have a feed that meets your production system’s requirements.

One of the best examples of this is Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s lineup of CPC feeds. The Stargro Program was developed through years of trial on hundreds of thousands of stocker calves. This program allows stocker producers to select feeds that work with their individual program. Whether you need a feed for incoming stockyard cattle or your own weaned calves, the starter feeds are balanced and medicated to get them on feed and growing quickly. After getting the calves started and converted to CPC Grower, producers can expect a low cost per pound of gain and cattle primed to sell to feed yards. The cattle will not be too fleshy and will grow and convert well in the feed yard. In regard to feed cost, the measure that assures profitability is the cost required to put on a pound of gain not the cost per ton of feed.

In the CPC feed lineup, there are products to balance silage-based programs, minerals, and both poured and low-moisture tubs. There are also products suitable for cow-calf operations from beef cow supplements to creep feeds. These are versatile feeds that can fit nearly any production scenario. As you explore these feeds, remember that you need to make them fit your program. They need to fit within your plan.

Take time to evaluate your production scenario and goals. Take time to write a plan. Make it a reasonable and doable plan. Make sure it has realistic and attainable goals. Evaluate how your plan will affect those producers further down the production line. After making this plan, take time to write it down and refer to it often. Especially, refer to it in times of change and critical decision making. Most importantly, evaluate how successful your plan was and change it to make it more productive in the future.

The success of any plan is dependent on the execution of the plan and the commitment to see it through. So, remember to go "all in" because success is much more gratifying than failure, especially when your financial success is in the balance.

Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist.