Sunday, October 24, 2010

Moving to Stockers

Well we are getting close to making a decision on how we want to go forward with our operation and we are leaning heavily toward going to stockers. The problems that we had this past calving season (calving while mob grazing) coupled with the recent spike in corn prices (I think high corn is here to stay, for a number of reasons) makes the decision to move to stockers relatively easy. I love cows and will miss calving season, but I won't miss the mental stress of trying to calve while mob grazing or the heartbreak of losing calf afer calf from scours. So we will be liquidating our entire cow herd next spring (probably in March)...they're a hell of a good set of cows and I hate to have to do this but I think it's the right thing to do. The plan is to then rest our grass, stockpile as much forage as possible, and purchase 2000-3000 head of stockers in December, mob graze them until June, supplementing them with about 3# of ddg and hoping for 1.6# per day gain. My biggest challenge is sourcing and merchandising our stockers, but I'm going to start working the phones.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Early weaned calf weights

We weighed all of the calves that we early weaned today. 172 head of calves averaged 328 lbs. We moved all 172 head to Mickeys where there is knee deep hasn't been grazed all year. We will be supplementing 1 lb/cwt of ddg per head per day. To make things work easier, we plan on rotating the calves every 3 days and feeding them every 3 days in bunks. I hope we can weigh these calves out in March and will post the results.

Questions moving forward re: mob grazing

Well we've done a lot of soul searching since tallying up the sobering numbers last week. One thing I knew before this latest kick in the gut, but was certainly reinforced last week, is that mob grazing is fantastic for the soil and grass but not so great for the grazing animals. I knew our weaning weights would suffer (we've certainly seen lower weaning weights) and we would lose condition on cows that couldn't compete, but we have seen other side effects to mob grazing that have been much more costly. We aren't ready to abandon mob grazing all together, the improvements in the grass production and carrying capacity are just too great to ignore, but we need to tweak our system. One of those tweaks might be to early wean all of our calves at 120-150 days of age. We have another location that we could take them to to carry them thru the winter as we supplement them with ddg, and then maybe we could reintroduce them to the mob at green up to take advantage of the spring flush, selling them off of grass at the end of June. We early weaned the calves out of our heifers this year and are going to do a test run with them. We weighed them out and should get a pretty good idea of the types of gains we can get by running them on grass and 1#/cwt of ddg. We will weigh them again when we pull them out in Feb-Mar. Of course I will post the numbers to show our results. I've run the numbers and we would need to get around a 10% increase in conception rates to pay for the extra cost of both the feed and the time/expense to feed them. Since we had a 94% conception rate last year, in some of the better years, a 10% increase isn't even possible. I do feel, however, that there will be additional added benefits other than simply an increase in conception rates....healthier calves, healthier cows, heavier weaning weights? This will be a good year to compare our two groups. I know this has no effect on our biggest issue, scours, but we will address that issue in the future as well.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A mob grazing pic and a video

mob grazed sulphur weed

I am posting a picture of what's left of 10 foot high sulphur weed in the North Rock Barn pasture after it was mob grazed. It was a banner year for ragweed and sulphur weed and the weeds in this pasture were literally over the top of my SUV prior to turn in. The pic will show you what's left after a day with the mob. Again, we are getting fantastic utilization out of the weeds (forbs) that are present in our pastures. The video is a tribute to Hal and all of his hard work designing and building our new set of working pens on the west side of the Goat Ranch. We used these new pens for the first time last week to work all of our cows and calves thru and they worked flawlessly. In fact, I can't think of one thing I would change. Congratulations to Hal for a job VERY well done! The key to the pens is the "Bud Box" on either side of the entrance to a double alley way. The "Bud Boxes" allow cattle to be brought in from either side and loaded into the alley way. The double alley allows as many as 8 cows to stand in line waiting to enter the chute. The cattle remained very calm and moved very well thru the set up with very minimal balking. Not only did we not have a hot shot while working, but you will notice in the video that the person loading the alley way doesn't even have a sorting stick. That's how well this set up works. We worked 565 head of cows with 4 (and sometimes 5) people in under 7 hours. It just worked fantastic. You can also see the cowboys in the background roping and dragging our calves. We find that this has the lowest amount of stress on the calves and is much easier to castrate the calves than working them thru the chute. The cowboys absolutely love this "work". We hire them for the day and quite honestly it's money well spent.

See the video here: new working corrals

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I Need A Hug

The Ugly Numbers

On Feb 20, 2010 we preg checked the herd and kept 352 pregnant cows at the Goat Ranch. To those 352 cows, we added 26 pregnant cows from Oklahoma, 42 pregnant E6 heifers, and 61 pregnant Arkansas heifers, for a total of 460 head of pregnant cows. We also added 15 pairs from Oklahoma and 131 pairs of Arkansas heifers for a total of 146 pairs. So we had a total of 606 head of cows at the goat ranch with 146 calves as of the end of April (minus the cows we lost during March and April, which I know is several).

On October 4, 2010 we worked all of the cows and calves and pulled the bulls. We had 565 cows and 377 head of calves. The simple math says we lost 41 head of cows and, assuming all of the pregnant cows calved (I know we had a few Arkansas heifers that we culled that were still pregnant and hadn’t calved, but only 2-3) we lost 229 calves (I also think we lost several pregnant cows after we pregged in February). Even if we assumed that none of the 41 head of cows we lost actually calved (which I know isn’t correct because we just lost 12 cows just last month that we know calved), we still lost 188 head of calves. So we probably actually lost around 210 head of calves this year (36%), almost all of them due to scours. Even more alarming is the fact that we lost only a couple of calves that we purchased as pairs. So if you subtract those calves off of the total (377-146=231) we have 231 live calves out of 460 pregnant cows. Ugh! This should make everyone reading this feel much better about their own cow/calf operation.

The worst part about all of this is that we (and when I say “we” I mean Hal) worked our asses off this year spotting, catching and treating sick calves. We spent a small fortune on drugs. Hell, I spent over $2000 on Zinc Sulfate and Zinc Oxide alone in a futile attempt to reduce scours. These numbers aren’t a result of a lack of effort.

Ending numbers:
October 4, 2010

83 cull cows sent to Joplin
2 cull bulls sent to Joplin
23 E6 heifers moved to Sullingers
459 cows kept at the Goat Ranch (457 worked, 2 left in South Center)
204 calves kept with the cows at the Goat Ranch
173 calves early weaned and going to Mickeys
9 Bulls hauled to Sandy’s
2 bulls left in South Center

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Reason for This Mob Grazing Blog

I got this email yesterday and it reinforced just why this mob grazing blog is important and how we can all utilize each others experiences to make our operations better and more profitable:


I am a fellow mob grazer and have been looking for solutions to our massive scour problem. It sounds like you have experienced similar in a large mob situation. We have 350 cows in Virginia on 1000 open grazing acres. We have had scour issues this bad in the past but found the solution with the sandhills calving but this year were determined not to split the herd. What a nightmare- needles, drenches, and pills. Dead calves and buzzards circling. after the first 100 we split the herd but two weeks later its in the second herd we have split again and I think it has hit the third herd. We have talked with sources and they have said to much protein save more residual and move but that did not work. Vet says vaccinate next year with scours bos 9 but was hoping for a low input survival of the fittest operation but that will break me.I dont know if we should just plan the herd separation in our grazing plan (sandhills calving) or maybe it does not work anymore but I believe we just got scours started and once it starts you talk about a plague. Yellow scours, white scours, grey scours, and coccidiossis. By the way we fall calve starting in late August and will finish by middle of Oct. Just hoping we can find a solution to this problem as their our not many large herd producers with these issues and mob grazing. Maybe change calving to late april, may? Lets figure this out.


As most of you that read this blog are aware, we went thru very similar issues earlier this year and I'm hopeful that by sharing this with Brian, we may be able to learn more about what is causing these problems and how to mitigate them.