Stressors to stocker cattle require special care
from my article in The Farmer’s Pride
Kentucky enjoys a position of prominence when it comes to American beef production. The Commonwealth is the eighth largest producing state in the U.S. and the largest contributor east of the Mississippi River, with more than a million head. As such, beef growers in the Bluegrass should always be on the lookout for methods to help them maximize profits. That’s just what the Kentucky Stocker Conference, held in Lexington September 27th, was designed to do.
The conference is organized annually by the University of Kentucky extension service and its agents with the assistance of a number of sponsors and industry cooperators to focus the spotlight on this sometimes overlooked but critical stage in the development of a market steer.
Dr. Bob Smith, an Oklahoma veterinarian led off the discussion. He told the approximately 70 cattlemen and women in attendance that post-weaning stockers need some special attention because of all the stressors they face. Add to that the additional stress of comingling and you have a calf that is susceptible to a number of health issues if not properly cared for. “It all centers on the risk of respiratory disease, because that’s the big challenge they face after weaning,” according to Smith. Feeding and handling, proper environment and appropriate medications are all considerations that are important during this particularly stressful time. “It’s not just the right thing for us to do as good stewards. The better we manage these calves, the better the calf’s going to produce for us and the better the economic needs of the producer are met,” says Smith.
UK extension economist Kenny Burdine amplified the importance of economic benefit to the producer as he discussed marketing, with an emphasis on futures and trading. “In volatile times like this, with prices moving as they are, there’s just a lot more price risk out there.” Burdine says futures and options trading are ways to mitigate that risk.
With grain prices rising, the tendency for feedlots is to want to receive heavier cattle to reduce the time on feed necessary to finish the animal to USDA standards. Kentucky’s strong forage base puts the state in a good position to produce those heavier steers coming off grass into the feedlot.
Bourbon County extension agent Glenn Mackie was one of the planners of the conference, held at Fayette County’s extension facility. “There are a lot of stockers statewide, but many of the large stocker operations are here in central Kentucky.” Mackie says it just makes sense to provide producers with information they can use to be more successful and to continue to improve Kentucky’s position as a beef producing state.