Beef Cowherd Cost Control Strategies

Dennis L. DeWitt, Livestock Field Specialist, Northwest

Problem Statement:     

The beef cow enterprise continues to be faced with higher costs and lower sale prices.  For the last three years there has been a decline in feeder cattle prices in the late summer and early fall. 

Programmatic Response:

The Iowa Beef Center (IBC) has developed decision aids, newsletters, and various strategies for educational programs to assist cowherd owners in controlling input costs and improve efficiencies to improve profitability.  Many of these materials are available on the IBC website also.  Four beef cowherd meetings and one pasture walk for 93 different beef cowherd operations showcased cost control strategies and value added opportunities.  Strategies to control feed cost were to sort cows into appropriate groups to feed lower cost rations to meet needs and reduce over feeding and feed waste.   Adding value to calves opportunity was to enter into a Process Verified Program (PVP) and Iowa Cattleman’s Verified Iowa Preconditioning (VIP).

Outcome Statement:     

Pre-meeting questions were asked to determine current production practices:  Only 10 persons had a realistic yearly cow cost.  21 persons indicated their cow cost was what ISU budgets stated.  9 persons sorted cows into different management groups.  Only 7 persons obtained feed analysis information to balance rations.  Only 3 persons were age and source verifying their calves. 

Short-term results measures indicated 2 more persons were going to keep better cow cost records.  5 more persons were going to sort thin cows to feed with first calf heifers.  10 more producers were going to start testing some feedstuffs.  12 more producers were going to seek further information on PVP and VIP from company reps. 

Medium-term results were 34 ration balancing programs were analyzed that reduced feed cost $0.21 to $0.79 per head per day.  17 more feedstuffs were analyzed.  8 producers switched to feeding corn stalk from hay to reduce feed cost by an average of $0.37 per head per day. 

Long-term results from Morris Larson, Spencer Livestock Sales, he has enrolled under the ICA PVP umbrella 14 new beef cow herds and 8 new feedlots.  He has RFID tagged 1,450 head the past year, up from 840 head the year before.  Over 500 head of calves in the VIP program have sold at an increased value of $1.31 to $5.74/cwt.


140 Iowa Beef Center

Page last updated: August 5, 2009
Page maintained by Linda Schultz,