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IBC: Cow herd has heightened need for longevity

By Staff | Jan 20, 2016

AMES (IBC) – The contrast between the beginning of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 is stark in the beef cattle markets.

Last year was one of transition as the markets turned the corner from upward-trending prices to the reality of growing cattle inventories and the beginning of cyclically lower prices.

Many cow-calf operations that expanded through the purchase of record high-priced replacement heifers in 2014 and 2015 are now scrambling to pay for those females with calf price levels not seen since the fall of 2013.

Traditional wisdom and economic analysis would suggest that most cows in the Midwest need at least four to six years of consecutive production to turn a profit over the sum of cash and fixed costs.

However, Iowa State University’s Net Present Value decision tool shows replacements purchased at record high prices in early 2015 may need to produce upwards of 10 calves to pay for themselves based on current feeder cattle price projections.

Obviously, this investment payback is highly dependent on annual cow costs and future feeder and cull cow prices, but the one thing we can be sure of now is the cost of those replacements.

Now, perhaps more than ever, longevity will be the key to profitability when it comes to replacements that entered the herd over the past two years.

However, managing, identifying and breeding for females that will maintain themselves in the herd for six years, let alone a decade, can be a daunting task.

To help producers manage through this time of economic transition, the Iowa Beef Center is partnering with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, ABS Global, Accelerated Genetics, Select Sires and Merial to conduct a series of three educational workshops in the Farm News coverage area titled, “Heifer Development 3: Breeding & Selecting for Longevity & Profit.”

This is the third installment of the heifer development series, building on the 2011 and 2014 programs on yearling and first-calf heifer best management practices.

The focus of this year’s series is on current genetic and phenotypic selection tools that can be utilized to improve cow longevity and enhance lifetime productivity.

A meal will be served at each site and cost is $20 when preregistered three days prior to the event.

Walk-in registration is $25 per person with no guarantee of meal.

The three regional meetings are:

  • Feb. 2 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Western Iowa Tech Community College, in Cherokee.
  • Feb. 10 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Muse Norris Conference Center at North Iowa Area Community College, in Mason City.
  • March 2 from 5p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hansen Ag Student Learning Center, Ames.

To preregister call (515) 294-2333 or email beefcenter@iastate.edu.

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