Farm and Ranch
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
By Rayford Pullen
Aug 4, 2020
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In the world of cattle production, we have got to be thinking ahead all the time in regards to breeding decisions, marketing and making sure our cattle have the best nutrition possible to reach their genetic potential and have the best return on our investment we can achieve profitability.  When we invest a dollar, we need to have a chance to get more than a dollar back or our operations cannot be sustainable.

Simple math indicates that if you expect to get $800, or whatever you have in mind, for your calves, you cannot spend more than that on your cows on an annual basis and be profitable and that’s assuming a 100% calf crop.

Winter feed accounts for our single largest annual expense followed by grass costs and this is the month we begin making plans to help cut down on our winter feed costs by planting winter annual forages and in our case, this would be Marshall or Nelson ryegrass. Complete instructions on how to plant this forage can be found on our web site and clicking on the Marshall Ryegrass tab.

Assuming the weather cooperates and we get a good stand this fall, how we manage the forage and the animals we run on it will dictate whether it is profitable or not. Below are some of the ways we utilize our winter annuals to maximize our return on our forage investments.

-Letting our calves graze it yields the highest return since the pounds produced will be marketed.

-Using it to get our first calf heifers rebred 

-Limit grazing our cow herd to reduce protein supplementation cost. This is about 2 hours per day.

 Letting our calves graze it, whether weaned or still on the cow will result in our best return.  We have installed creep gates with 15-inch openings to let the nursing calves have access while excluding the cows. 

Our next best return is letting our first calf heifers and their babies have access in order to get them rebred.  Getting those first calf heifers rebred can be a challenge since they have recently shed their baby teeth, they are still growing and are now nursing a calf.  If she’ll rebreed in less than 120 days we consider it a success.  As opposed to other winter annuals, we have never had a case of milk fever (grass tetany) grazing ryegrass, plus if we have an abundance of cool season forage, we’ll let the heifers graze ryegrass and calve on it so they are in better condition to rebreed.  I’ve never had a problem with the calves being too large from the heifers being in really good shape and as a result having calving problems.  Conversely, you’ll have more rebreeding problems with the heifers being in poor condition when they calve.

Being able to let your cows at least limit graze cool season annuals to cut down on hay and winter feed supplementation is a real bonus.  The economics of doing this is directly proportional to your cow’s body condition and your actual winter-feeding costs. 

As mentioned earlier, your success or failure with cool season annuals begins when and how you plant them and this applies whether you are overseeding perennial pastures like Bermuda grass or planting in plowed or slightly plowed soil.  Be sure to check our web site above to make sure you are planting correctly.

Whether cool season annuals are profitable or not for your operation depends on you and how you manage them. Some people make lots of money having them while others break even or even lose money, ultimately, the person in the mirror is the one responsible for positive or negative results.

It’s a great time to be in the cattle business.

Rayford Pullen
Pullen Angus