Tag: featured

UNL Cow-Q-Lator

An Excel worksheet with Examples comparing the cost of TDN and Crude Protein in different feeds considering transportation and handling costs with losses. It also calculates the feed needed and total cost given herd size and days fed.

This is the Goto software that will give you the Best idea on using your available resources to combine them – Making sure your Livestock are getting the right balance in their DIET – while keeping your costs Low.

Click Here for Link to Cow-Q-Latro

Health Care for your Ranch

One of Ranchers and Farmers biggest challenges is having affordable Health Coverage. The limited options for Health Insurance for small businesses makes it difficult to get adequate coverage.

With the onslaught of obamaCare – New Private programs have come up with products to help the farmers/ranchers and small business keep themselves covered from high insurance costs.

Call Krista – 307.331.3042
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Square Spinner Hay Feeding Machine

If YOU Must feed Hay – Then do it with the Spinner.

Square Spinner was designed to be both effective and efficient.

The Square Spinner stands uniquely alone as there is nothing else on the market, that attaches easily to a 3 point hitch, to feed square bales. It eliminates pulling a processor over varying terrain and through deep snow. Rather than chewing feed up, which can lead to loss in wind and snow, it flakes the hay off without shredding. It enables the feeding of square bales to be a one person job and is very easy to use. The design is simple and the cost is very reasonable as compared to other processors.
Features and Benefits:
• One person feeding operation
• Adustable to feeed all large square bales.
• Easy bale handling
• Capable of pulling wagon/sled with the Square Spinner in the up position.
• Adjustable to fit any tractor
• Low maintenance, grease bearings accordingly
• Feeds product flake by flake, as light or heavy as desired

Impletment Requirements:
• No PTO, all hydraulically driven
• 2500 psi hydraulic hookup required
• Suggested 65 horse power tractor m1n1mum

Grass Hay • Alfalfa
Sorghum • Sudan
Corn Stalks •
Will feed anything that can be put into a bale

Cow Herd Dynamics

Age & Weight

Most producers seem to refer to cows as “the herd.”

In reality, that herd is split into several age groups that often are overlooked.

Managers usually look at averages to guide managerial applications.

For instance, the cow herd averages 5.6 years of age for North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association producers involved in the North Dakota State University Extension CHAPS program.

Does this mean all the cows should be managed as 5-year-old cows? The answer obviously is no.

However, what is the target?

I could not help pulling out some data I put together a few years ago.

At that time, the average cows enrolled in the CHAPS program averaged 5.4 years of age. Interestingly, average cow age has not changed much during the last few decades.

OF COURSE, the replacement rate is projected to go up because the low number of cows in the inventory begs for more cows.

Currently, the replacement rate benchmark is 15.3 percent, but the example I had worked out was for a 20 percent replacement rate.

You have to keep in mind that not all replacement heifers breed.

So what does this all mean in terms of the distribution of the cow herd?

Assuming a typical herd of 100 cows, one would anticipate the inventory to be made up of 17 first-calf heifers, 15 second-calf heifers, 13 that are 4 years old, 11 that are 5, 10 that are 6, nine that are 7, eight that are 8, six that are 9, five that are 10, three that are 11, two that are 12 and one that is 13 or older. The distribution of age is slanted dramatically to the younger cows.

OF THE total cows, 45 would not be considered mature cows. Only six of the cows would be more than 10 years old.

Managing cows means keeping in mind the various groups of cows that are in the herd and then meeting their nutritional needs, not the nutritional needs for the average age of the cows.

What this means is the cows need to be sorted.

TO MEET each group’s needs, a separate pen for the 17 first-calf heifers should be set, then add the 10-year-old and older cows.

If the pastures were short or winter feed supplies challenging, the second-calf heifers and any thin cows (condition score 4 and under) should be added.

Essentially, the special needs group easily could be 43 cows based on age, plus a few thin cows from the mature group of cows.

Half the herd needs to be on a stepped-up plan of nutrition designed to put some weight on the cows. The other half could follow a typical maintenance, hold-your-own type of plan.

Another way to look at that example is to look at what different ages of cows weigh in the fall

In this example, those first-calf heifers (2 1/2-year-olds) are always the lightest in the fall, coming in at 1,082 pounds. The weight is taken in the fall when the cows are approximately half a year older than when they calved in the spring. The most logical time to weigh the cows is at weaning, so that is the weight that is discussed.

Now, for the weights, with the condition score in parenthesis:

-The 2-year-old weighed 1,082 pounds (4.9),

-3-year-olds 1,184 (5),

-4-year-olds 1,255 (5),

-5-year-olds 1,279 (5.1),

-6-year-olds 1,301 (5.2) and

-the 7-year-olds 1,304 (5.2).

One should note cows keep growing until they reach 7 years of age in this data set. Body condition is more constant and levels a year earlier at 6 years of age.

The important point to remember is cows are not fully grown as heifers and have seven years of growth before they start to decrease in weight.

-The 8-year-olds weighed 1,299 pounds (5.2),

-9-year-olds 1,286 (5.1),

-10-year-olds 1,265 (5),

-11-year-olds 1,267 (4.9),

-12-year-olds 1,236 (4.7),

-13-year-olds 1,232 (4.5) and

-14-year-olds 1,180 (4.3).

Cows slowly work themselves up to a peak weight when they are 7 years old and then start to lose weight until they leave the herd. The 14-year-old cows weigh the same as the 3-year-old cows in the fall of the year.

Body condition is held more constant and 6-, 7- and 8-year-old cows all have similar body condition scores. However at 11-years-old, cows drop back to body condition scores more typical of 2-year-old cows.

The moral of the story is young and old cows need to be treated similarly and fed separately from the main body of cows. That is, if you want excellent performance from all ages of cows.

Understanding the dynamics of the herd is critical to proper management.

May you find all your ear tags.

Cow Costs – Depreciation

Cow Depreciation – A Hidden Cost

Cow depreciation is frequently the second largest expense to the cow-calf enterprise after feed. Depreciation is a non-cash expense that is often overlooked by cow-calf producers. Depreciation for a cow is calculated as the following.

Depreciation = (Purchase Price or Replacement Cost – Salvage Value)/Productive Years in the Herd

Purchase price is the dollar value of the bred heifer or cow when she is bought and enters the herd. For producers raising their own replacement heifers, replacement cost should include all costs starting with the costs to produce the weaned heifer calf till the time she enters the herd as a bred female.

To demonstrate how significant this expense can be, examine an example of current bred replacement heifer prices against today’s cull cow values.

(Bred Two-Year-Old Heifer = $2750) – (Average Cull Cow Value = $1500) = $1250/head, Depreciation without death loss

The average number of productive years for most cows in a herd is somewhere from 3-5 years assuming a 10 – 20% cowherd replacement rate. Using five years, depreciation is $250.00 per head per year. At four years it is $312.50 per head per year and at three years it is $416.67. If you add in death loss at 2% on an average cow herd value of $2000 then depreciation expense jumps to $290.00 per head for five years, $352.50 for four and a $456.67 for three. Cow depreciation is a significant expense!

Aggressively identifying ways to reduce depreciation expense should be a goal for cow-calf producers. Depreciation can be reduced one of three ways.

1. Reduce replacement heifer development costs or the purchase price for bred heifers/cows.

2. Increase the salvage value of cows that are leaving the herd.

3. Increase the number of years a cow is productive in the herd.

Let’s take a look at each segment of the cow depreciation equation.


Cow-calf producers who purchase bred replacement females need to evaluate the cost of those females against expected productivity and revenue that will be generated from them. When most cow-calf producers think of buying bred replacements, they probably are thinking of purchasing bred heifers. However, it may be that purchasing a different age group of cows would be more profitable and provide greater management flexibility.

Those cow-calf producers who raise and develop their own replacement heifers should enterprise replacement heifers separately from the cowherd to identify all of the costs involved. A producer should know their costs to produce a weaned heifer calf. At weaning the producer should on paper “sell” the weaned replacement heifers to the replacement heifer development enterprise at market value. The replacement heifer enterprise “buys” the weaned heifers and then develops the heifers into bred heifers that can be “sold” back to the cow-calf enterprise. Once the bred heifers are ready to enter the herd, the cow-calf enterprise then “buys” these bred heifers at market value.

While all of these transactions only occur on paper, and may seem unnecessary, it brings clarity to where expenses and revenue are being generated in the operations and which enterprises are profitable. Keeping track of all expenses, including a heifer’s market value at weaning, that go into developing a bred replacement heifer is important to be able to identify opportunities to optimize development costs. For more information on developing replacement heifers see the UNL NebGuide “Reducing Replacement Heifer Development Costs Using a Systems Approach” at http://go.unl.edu/8m5d.


In the depreciation equation, increasing the “salvage” value of cows leaving the herd often provides the greatest opportunity to reduce depreciation. Frequently cow-calf producers pregnancy test spring calving cows and cull non-pregnant cows in the fall of the year. Other cows are frequently culled at this time as well for a plethora of reasons including age, attitude, udders, structure, lumps, bumps, etc. This time of the year is also historically when annual cull cow values tend to be lowest for the year.

The following are two examples of the ways that value can be added to cows leaving the herd increasing their worth and thus reducing depreciation expense.

1. Have a long breeding season and a short calving season. The use of pregnancy diagnosis tools such as palpation and ultrasound can identify how far along a cow is in her pregnancy. Those cows that will calve later than the desired time period can be sold as bred cows. In today’s market environment bred cows usually bring a significant premium to non-pregnant cows.

2. Capture additional value from non-pregnant cows by adding weight and selling into a historically seasonally better market than the fall. The value of weight gain today for a cull cow can be quite amazing at current prices. This is especially true if you can move a cow from a “Lean” classification into a “Boner/Breaker” classification in a market where prices are increasing.


Evaluate ways to cost effectively reduce cowherd turnover. The first reason cows are usually removed from the herd is because they are not pregnant. Young cows, especially those that are two or three years of age are often the most vulnerable. Older cows toward the end of their productive life can be vulnerable as well. There are several tools such as hybrid vigor, genetics that fit resources, health programs, development systems and strategic feeding/supplementation that can be used to cost effectively reduce cowherd turnover.

Cow depreciation is a significant expense. Cow-calf producers who aggressively manage to cost effectively reduce this expense will see an increase in their profit.

By Aaron Berger, UNL Extension Educator