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What a year 2015 has been! Record cattle prices as we entered 2015 with history making highs in the feeder and live cattle market as we rolled through the year into September.
The weather was not as cooperating however, as portions of Western Canada experienced drought conditions early and the pattern extended into mid-summer with relief coming too late to help the 1st cut of forage and range. With the drought conditions and the shortage of stock piled forage, the price of forages for fodder escalated early to record prices for forages in mid-summer.
Beef Cow Numbers remain under pressure in Alberta and the rebuild has not yet started in Alberta, as it has with our neighbours south of the 49th. We continue to see herd reductions and dispersal sales due to the value of the Bred Cow and the shortage of feed supplies. Due to economics we also see the herd size increasing and carcass weights in the market place have compensated for some of the drop in cow numbers.
One of the largest costs in a Cow Calf operation is the feed cost next to the cost of reproduction loss in the herd. With rising costs on fodder this year, producers are looking at methods to extend the grazing season and reduce the mechanical costs of feeding. There is definitely room in the equation to reduce costs as producers look to minimize feeding days. Producers have put the pencil to the economics of grazing corn, using cover crops such as tillage raddish, turnips, forage brassicas and annual crops such as Annual Rye. All of the above come with an annual cost, however these strategies often will extend grazing days on an operation and reduce costs. The most important principle being, the rest periods that one is able to provide for perennial forages and native range to ensure the highest level of production for the following year.
Winter planning is an excellent time to establish what cropping plans you will utilize for 2016. Contact your Northstar Dealer or Sales Agronomist to help you plan your grazing strategy or cropping alternatives. There may be an opportunity for a double cropping strategy or simply a strategy to reduce feeding days on your operation.