Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reducing Input Expenses

In my last two posts, I discussed how much money you can be throwing away through poor cattle handling procedures and the true worth of your cattle after inflation is taken into consideration. While changing your cattle handling methods is an easy fix, trying to cut other inputs can seem to be insurmountable. However it can be easier than you can imagine.


If you have more than one full time employee for every thousand head of cows, or two thousand head of yearlings, you are over staffed. If you practice reduced stress cattle handling methods, and get through your cattle once or twice a week, the only time you should need extra help is when you are branding, weaning, shipping, or preconditioning.

Fuel Mechanical Maintenance

Nearly everyone spends more time in their pickup or on four wheelers than they do a horse. In many cases (especially if your ranch is in rough country) you really can't go any faster in a pickup than you can on a horse. Even if your roads are in good enough shape to go faster, why burn the fuel and tear up an expensive truck or ATV? I recently talked with one rancher who runs 1,500 pairs, plus a few hundred yearling heifers. He is running three employees and burns up over 1,000 gallons of gas and diesel each month in three pickups checking waterlines. That is an expense of nearly $4,000 in fuel before you figure in wear and tear on the trucks, flat tires and an extra full time employee.

I have run 2,200 yearlings plus an additional 150 pairs on 50,000 acres with no help and burned less than 45 gallons of fuel a month (with the exception of running to town for mineral or other supplies every other month.) The amount of fuel NOT burned amounts to 820 gallons a month. At $3.40 gas this amounts a reduction in input amounts of over $30,000 a year in fuel expenses alone.

Your wheels are turning, and you are thinking of all of the longer hours you will be putting in without your pickup or ATV. When running the above ranch, I ran the waterlines on a motorcycle Saturday morning and was off the ranch by noon. I would do a quick run on Monday morning just to make sure there were no new leaks. During the week, I was seldom home later than 5 or 5:30.

Additional Benefits
The first benefit is one you may not have thought of, your health and stress level. You, or your employee will remain healthier, both physically and emotionally, riding a horse than bouncing around in a pickup. Second, your cattle see you and will be calmer when you go to gather. This also means you see your cattle and know where they are, reducing or eliminating going back out to gather remnants at shipping time. If you plan your riding carefully, you will be checking your fences regularly and keep them in a better state of repair.

Direct Cattle Management
As I have pointed out before, using reduced stress cattle handling methods can increase ADG's with no added input. If you are running pairs, time your calving season to coincide with green grass. If you are in an area of cold and snow, this can cut your feed bill by two-thirds. You can either sell your excess hay or adjust your herd size to make up for the difference. Once again, this goes with the principle of reducing inputs while increasing income.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me.