What a difference in weather from last summer to this summer. The dry summer made for great hay making conditions; however I am hearing that some producers have paid the price with reduced forage yields and pastures drying up over the summer. The hurricane season is now upon us so likely moisture excess is now the new order of the day. You have to love our distinct seasons! With that thought in mind producers that are potentially short on forages should take a hard look at culling cows that have not been good performers to save scarce forage resources for the balance of the herd even with the declining value of the slaughter cow market to get the most gain on young feeders and keep your core cows in good condition to produce the next calf crop.
Bill Thomas and Jonathon Wort are two excellent resource people with Perennia that can help producers assess the value of the forages that they have on hand to maximize the benefits to the herd while minimizing further expenditures for feed. Unfortunately coarse grains are in short supply and possibly an expensive substitute for forages this season so producers may have to look at a variety of choices to find the best fit for your operation. Short changing the whole herd to get through to next summer is not likely a smart business decision.
In talking with some feed lot operators this summer, they clearly stated that regardless what the top prices are for calves, calves that are improperly castrated, not dehorned or vaccinated can be heavily discounted in auction barns or in private treaty sales. Going into the fall market, it might be a good time to consult your veterinarian on a vaccination program for your herd, a refresher on proper castration methods and a pregnancy check to cull open or problem cows. In my books, a good polled bull is still the simplest method for dealing with the horn issue in cattle.
The summer heat wave has provided extreme hard ships south of the border and has caused a lot of ranchers to sell off some or all of their herd(s). This has played havoc with cull cow prices and finished cattle. Feedlots will be challenged to pay the higher price for calves that many of us had hoped we would see this fall given the shortage of cattle in the North American market place, but the high price of grain, forage shortage and with the on slot of US cattle hitting the slaughter line we could be in for some volatile, possibly lower feeder cattle prices going into the fall sales. The belief is that prices will moderate backup in early winter or spring with young feeders once the herd reductions are over with in the USA. The next few feeder sales will likely be as good an indicator as any.
In terms of board activities, this summer we had put together a small working group of cow-calf producers, a couple feedlot operators and a processor/retailer to investigate what branding might do for the NS cattle industry. We are looking at the insurance/bonding program used in Western Canada to see how such a similar program could be implemented here to protect producers should a buyer fall on hard times and not pay for shipped cattle as has possibly happened to some this year when a Quebec slaughter plant closed on short notice. We are working on other projects but always welcome suggestions on ideas that could benefit the industry as a whole that the board should possibly be looking into. We will be organizing a field day in the Valley this fall, watch for details to follow shortly.