Late July, August and September are three exciting months in the annual cattle calendar. Calving for most herds occurs over this time. At the same time, the majority of the regions annual bull sales take place.
Buying new bulls is exciting. The chance to acquire new genetics to lift your herd performance should be exciting. Having said that, I reckon buying a new bull is a process that should start well before sale day.
In earlier posts I've discussed the impact a bull will have on your herd over a few generations, and on the importance of putting a plan in place to bring your bull home from the sale. Planning shouldn't start when the catalogue arrives in the mail. It should be on going as you monitor the growth of your cattle; their performance and suitability for your environment and your target markets.
This close attention to production indicators will help you select potential bulls from a catalogue based on their genetic suitability to your enterprise. Not every bull in a catalogue will suit you. When you have found those bulls, try and have a look at them before sale time. As I've said before most bull breeders will be very happy for you to have a look.
If you don't get a chance to see the bulls before sale day, you really need to make plenty of time before the sale actually starts to get into the yard and check your selected bulls out properly.
Ideally you are looking for a bull that displays the physical attributes which complement the genetics identified in the catalogue.
I reckon you need to be assessing each bull for his maturity pattern; structural soundness; testicle size and sheath; muscularity and for temperament.
You should spend your time looking at the bulls which you've selected from the catalogue. By doing that you will be looking at bulls which you know have the genetics you require for your herds development, and you wont be distracted by bulls which might look good, but genetically don't really suit your enterprise.
Its never a bad thing to take someone along to the sale with you to bounce ideas off and to make sure your assessments don't miss anything. It can be hard and really isn't fair to ask the vendor on sale day to give you time to go through the bulls. Some vendors arrange to have an independent industry advisor on hand to help you make your assessments. Its a role I'm undertaking for several sales this season. I'm looking forward to helping producers choose the right bull for their operation and environment.
Once you've made your choice, make sure you have a chance to have a cuppa and catch up with other producers. Be relaxed and bid only on your chosen bull when the sale starts. If you do miss out on your chosen bull, don't bid on anything! That desperate last bull may set your operation back a long way.
If you do miss out, chat to the vendor about what you were looking for. That personal contact might help find some options which really suit you and your operation.
If you make your plans and know what you are looking for, get good advice and find the right bull, you will make an investment which will take your herd forward to a new level of performance.
Last weekend I was working with a producer, pregnancy testing this years maiden heifers, as well as a large group of first calf heifers. Unfortunately a large number of the first calf heifers were found to be not in calf.
First calf heifers, especially those which calve as 2 year olds, can be very difficult to rejoin successfully, and often have lower pregnancy rates when compared against older cows.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Cattle in a Fat Score (FS) range of 3 - 4 should take around 50 days to commence cycling after calving. Younger cows, may take up to 20 days more than this. If the Fat Score of those cattle is lower than FS 3, the time taken to return to oestrus is increased.
In a controlled joining program, usually a 12 week program, these delays often see many females failing to go into calf.
I reckon that the first calf heifers are the group of cattle that deserve the most love and attention in a breeding herd.
Close attention during calving needs to be complemented with access to good quality nutrition. If pasture quality and quantity are limited, then supplementary feeding is essential.
I also reckon its a good idea to keep the first calf heifers in a separate group to the older cows from calving to joining. This way you can manage their needs more closely and get them ready for joining more efficiently.
Pregnancy testing is a key tool in managing your breeding females. Finding the non pregnant females early can allow you a chance to either remove those females from the operation, or make some decisions about rejoining.
If you do decide to sell those non pregnant females, consider ways which allows you to capture a higher value.
After the pregnancy testing on the weekend, I was able to sit down with the producer and we worked out a plan which covered both managing the non pregnant females and some strategies for the pregnant cows and this years group of maiden heifers. I was really happy to be able to help with that planning and I definitely reckon its one of the most rewarding parts of my business.
If you do want to discuss some options or put a plan in place for your first calf heifers, feel free to get in touch with me and we can set something in place.
In Northern NSW, calving is just starting in a lot of beef herds. I really love seeing new calves appearing in paddocks as I drive about visiting clients.
In terms of major events on the cattle calendar, I reckon calving is probably the biggest event. Its important to manage this event well, as a good calving season will impact on your short and longer term productivity and profitability.
You should aim to put your cows into paddocks where you can supervise them during calving.
Ideally you should be able to access yards easily if you do need to provide assistance.
Your calving paddocks need to have good shelter, access to water and most importantly sufficient pasture.
Many people don't realise how much extra energy their cows require once a calf is born. Once that calf arrives, the energy requirements of the cow will effectively double. If the amount of available pasture, or the quality of the pasture is insufficient, your cow will lose weight and she may also produce less milk which will impact on the growth of your calf.
In the longer term, weight loss post calving will impact on the fertility levels of your herd. Cows which are in low fat scores at calving, eg Fat Score 2, will take much longer to return to oestrus. In practical terms, this will see less cows going into calf at joining time, or a longer and more spread out joining which then impacts on next years calving.
Calving is a challenge particularly for first calf heifers, especially if they are calving as 2 year olds. This group of females requires a lot more attention, both during the calving period, and immediately post calving.
I reckon managing feed for your newly calved cows is the most important task. Using an appropriate supplement can help your cows use paddock feed more efficiently and meet some of the energy requirements placed on them as lactating cows.
Ensuring your cow nutrition is correct will help ensure your longer term goals for a fertile productive herd can be met more easily.
The critical time of calving is the during calving and immediately and the months leading up to joining. Well supervised, well fed cows will be much better suited to joining, while their calves will be better grown and more robust which is important for your future enterprise goals.
I've been spending a bit of time talking with producers about the best ways to manage their calving season. So if you'd like to get in touch, I can help you develop a plan to manage your newly calved cows.
In the last few posts I've talked about the things you should consider when you are looking to purchase a new bull. Its great to hear from several clients who said they found that advice helpful as they look for this seasons new sires.
Several of the producers I've been working with have already bought bulls in preparation for Spring joining. I reckon its important to mention the things you need to consider when you bring your new bull home.
The first thing to remember is you own the bull from the moment the hammer falls, so think about how you want him to be cared for and transported home. Consider some transport insurance as well.
When you do get your new bull home, remember he will feel pretty unsettled. Its best to let him into the yards with a few steers or some older cows for company.
If you have bought bulls from different properties, you need to make sure they are put into separate yards.
Give your new bull some hay and make sure there is water in the yards and then leave him (or them) alone to settle down.
Its important to undertake routine health treatments, and you need to speak with the vendor before hand regarding any treatments for worms, fluke, lice and health treatments such as 5 in 1 and Vibriosis vaccinations.
Remember your new bull will take a little while to settle in to his new home.
So when you work him through the yards give him space and time to learn the new way of doing things.
When you do let him put of the yards, let him into a well secured paddock with good feed and water with a few steers for company. Not only do the steers provide some company, but they will help your new bull find the water and settle into his new home with much less stress.
The other good thing to do is to have a quick follow up call to the bull breeder. They do like to know that you and the bull got home safely as well as knowing about how he has settled in to his new environment.
I spent most of last week visiting seedstock producers across the New England and North West Slopes. The opportunity to spend time looking at this years sale bulls is vital for a number of reasons.
A bull makes a contribution to your enterprise which is longer lasting than just next years calf drop.
The influence a bull brings into your herd extends up to three generations. So making sure the bull has the genetic and physical attributues to take your herd forward is a essential step prior to purchase.
I reckon the other important part of pre sale inspections is the chance to develop a relationship with the bull breeder. A strong relationship is good for buyer and seller. You can share information about the bull you need and pass information on regarding performance and suitability.
So in my mind, a week to look at peoples bulls a few months out from sale time does two things. I get to see plenty of good bulls, some of which I'll try and encourage my clients to look at. Secondly I had a chance to catch up and learn about the directions and ideas of our bull breeders, which will help me give better advice to my clients.
If you are looking for a bull this year, and you haven't made your mind up on the right bull for you, I suggest you call your breeder, jump in the car and go and have a look. You might find the right bull, and you might also develop a relationship which helps you out in years to come.
In the last few weeks I've had quite a few people asking me about using White Cottonseed in their supplementary feeding programs.
White Cottonseed is a great feed, and I reckon is one of the more versatile options for graziers undertaking a feeding program. White Cottonseed is rumen friendly, which means it doesn't require introductory feeding or building up an amount each day. White Cottonseed has good energy levels, around 13 MJ/ME and good protein levels, generally around 20% CP.
This means White Cottonseed can help your cattle utilise poor quality pasture more efficiently, and it adds some extra energy into their daily intake.
Because White Cottonseed is fluffy, the grains cling to each other. The practical upshot of this, is you can't store it in a silo or feed it through a self feeder.
You can feed it in dumps straight onto the ground, or in troughs. Ideally you would feed it every second day.
The daily rate for feeding White Cottonseed shouldn't exceed more than 30% of the animals daily intake.
Its also important to know White Cottonseed needs a functioning rumen to be properly digested. This means DON'T feed it to calves under 150kg live weight; to horses or to pigs.
The NSW DPI has really useful fact sheet on feeding White Cottonseed to cattle, It has the recommendations and amounts for all classes of stock.
I think the best part of being the Principal of RaynerAg is the chance to visit and spend time with people on their farms. I take a lot of pride in providing advice which is tailored towards individual enterprises and environments. I reckon the best way to share that advice comes from seeing the farm and looking at your cattle.
Yesterday afternoon was a great chance to visit Nick & Prue Lee who run the Omega3 Red Poll stud at Pine Ridge on the Liverpool Plains in NSW. I had a great afternoon talking to them about their goals for their cattle enterprise and sharing a few ideas about how to achieve those goals more efficiently.
I love sharing ideas and discussing opportunities for producers to increase their profit and to achieve their goals.
At this time of the years there's always plenty to talk about. Looking back on my years in the North West of NSW, I reckon the winter months are always the busiest. People are looking for bulls, preparing to calve down cows, manage weaners or utilise a winter crop.
With all these events happening it does help to bounce a few ideas around with someone with an impartial view. If you do need a fresh perspective, feel free to get in touch and I'll be only too happy to visit you on your farm and help put some ideas into practice.
Over the last few months, the industry talk has been about the price being offered to producers. I've been paying a lot of attention to these discussions, particularly as I am passionate about helping producers become more profitable.
So it was timely today to come across a press release from MLA, http://www.mla.com.au/News-and-resources/Industry-news/Kilos-and-costs#hp=highlight2&article=Cost%20of%20production
Knowing your Cost of Production is the first step for any producer focussed on improving their profitability. I was interested to note a big variation in the Cost of Production among the producers identified in the MLA article, ranging from $0.79 to $3.92. The average across the group of 72 producers was $1.22
So what does this mean. I reckon Cost of Production is the first step. The second step is to work out your average price per kilogram of beef sold. The difference between your Cost of Production and your average price per kilogram is your profit margin.
When you know what your profit margin is, then you can start to focus on those enterprise activities which will lead to an improvement on your margin.
As the Principal of RaynerAg, I've been working with several producers on a few exciting ways to improve their profit margin. I reckon we will make some big differences in the next year, and I'm excited about the opportunities we have come up with.
Its great to hear this week of a record price being paid for a Poll Hereford bull. I reckon this signals not just great confidence in the bull, but confidence in the beef industry.
Investing in new genetics does pay off. New genetics offer your herd a permanent and cumulative effect. Which can be a good thing in many instances. But, if you don't do your homework, you can introduce some less desirable traits as well. One bull can influence up to three generations, so it pays to look at all aspects of the bull and make sure you select the right one for your herd and your environment.
I'm looking forward to the Northern Beef Week, which kicks off from the 17th of June, 2013. I reckon its a great chance to drop in and look at some great cattle before the bull selling seasons really kicks off. I have a few places to go and see. I am looking forward to visiting Nick & Prue Lee at Pine Ridge, as well as Bruce & Helen Scrivener at Yarrowitch.
If you are planning on visiting a few places, or you'd like a few suggestions, I'd be happy to help you!
I’m Al Rayner. Welcome to my new blog.
I am really excited about launching my web page and to start a blog. I’m planning on sharing plenty of ideas and stories which I reckon might be helpful to your business, or at least to help you keep in touch with what’s happening in agriculture at the moment.
For the past 17 years I was working as a Beef Cattle Officer with NSW DPI. It was a great career and I enjoyed working with a lot of interesting and inspiring people. I worked most closely with farmers, but I also had plenty of opportunities to work with people in industry positions, researchers, and even schools.
I’m now running my own company RaynerAg. So what do I do?
If there’s one thing I love doing, its working with the people who grow our food and fibre. I love being able to share ideas and work on new ways to be more efficient, more sustainable and more profitable.
I’ve been thinking about the season a lot this week. While there are some predictions for rain on the way, I don’t reckon it will change pasture conditions too much in the short term. So, if you’re not thinking about some strategies for managing your calving cows next month, I reckon you need to get onto that straight away.
If you do need to start feeding, you really want to work out how much feed you’ll need and more importantly, how much it will cost. Planning now will help you manage calving a lot better and keep your cows close to condition for joining in spring.
Make sure you do get some advice about feeding and management strategies. Not all the things you hear about feeding are always exactly right. You don’t want to listen to the wrong thing and waste a lot of money on products you don’t need or are not really the right options for your cows and pasture conditions.
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- Selection to Increase Saleable Meat Yield
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