Cow Risk Strategies

Denise Schwab, Beef Field Specialist, Southeast
Problem Statement: 

The cow/calf and fed cattle markets have been profitable for several years, leading to interest in expansion.  However we all know the cattle cycle is exactly that, a cycle where losses soon follow a period of profits.  Price risks, weather risks, and marketing risks all contribute to the long-term profitability of a cattle business.  Coming off a period of high profits, one would expect a decline in profits over the next several years.  Producers need a plan to minimize risk in order to remain as profitable as possible.
Programmatic Response: 

With the help of a grant from the RMA, a series of programs on managing risk in the cattle industry were designed.  Multiple delivery modes included a webcast, a two-part meeting series, optional workshops, and a home study course.  Two counties in eastern Iowa, Benton and Cedar, hosted the webcast on January 9.  Three sites were selected for the two-part meetings, Amana, Maquoketa and Muscatine, and optional sessions were planned for the same sites.

Eighteen producers participated in the Jan. 9 webcast.  37 producers participated in the two-day sessions, and 13 participated in the third optional session.   Eleven of the participants were beef students from Kirkwood Community College.  As a result the instructor purchased the BRANDS ration software to use for their nutrition classes and requested a training session for himself and the students on using the software program.  The three-hour training included some basics on beef nutrition along with how to use the software.
The grant restricted the ability to do end of meeting evaluations, so a simple survey was used instead to determine their comfort level with various aspects of risk management.   Producers were asked to rank their confidence in the ability to understand certain management decisions, with 1 being very confident, and 5 being not confident at all.
Twelve (33%) ranked their confidence at understanding forage production and grazing system management as very confident (1), 13 (36%) ranked themselves as fairly confident (2), and 7 (19%) ranked themselves a 3 or confident.  In understanding ration balancing for animal performance, 10 (30%) ranked their confidence at very confident, 14 (42%) ranked fairly confident, and 8 (24%) ranked confident.  In understanding forage balance 11 (30%) ranked themselves as very confident, 12 (33%) ranked fairly confident, and 10 (30%) ranked confident.  While this doesnt measure knowledge or confidence gained, it does show that the participants were very or fairly confident with their understanding of the key production risk factors and how to manage some of their risk.
The same materials developed for this program will be used again for additional forage and pasture management meetings, workshops and pasture walks throughout the coming year.

March 6, 2006
107 - Iowa Beef Center

Page last updated: July 8, 2006
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