It's not too early to gear up for winter

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By Rick Greenwell

Over the years you have probably listened to many talks and presentations, read numerous articles, and discussed in some detail with your friends, neighbors, and fellow forage/livestock producers how you would really like to get ahead of the eight-ball when it comes to feeding your livestock during the winter temperatures, muddy conditions, how early it gets dark..there is not enough time in the day to get done what you would like to accomplish.  Well, now is the time for you to plan your winter feeding strategy to make life a lot easier this winter.  Listed below are several things you should do to make your life easier (and more profitable) this winter.

1.  Sample Hay and Send in Quality Analysis.

2. Buy Supplements Ahead of Need.

3. Start Growing Winter Stockpile

4. Cull Animals Early

5. Allocate Winter Feed

6. Keep Written Records

Report Shows Continuing Decline in Cattle Numbers:

USDA’s July Cattle report showed a continued decrease in cattle numbers from July of 2008.  Estimates included a 1 percent reduction in the number of beef cows and a 2 percent reduction in the number of heifers being held for beef replacements.  These reductions follow a 500,000 cow downward revision to the July 2009 beef cow estimate.  The July cattle report is further indication that the beef herd continues to shrink.

Drought was a major factor in herd reductions during  2007 and 2008, but weather has been much friendlier this year.  Cow-calf  operations have continued to liquidate because adequate profits had not been available.  While calf prices have improved from where they were in late 2008, many operations continue to struggle as many production costs remain high.

The USDA does not make state-level estimates in July, but I would expect that Kentucky numbers are following the national trend this year.  Kentucky lost just under 100,000 cows during 2007 and 2008 due to both drought and a lack of profit.  Heifer retention was estimated to be way down in January, so I would be surprised if Kentucky showed a year-over-year increase in beef cow numbers by the end of 2009.

It’s clear that cost structures on cow-calf operations have changed, and the prices needed to be profitable have also changed.  Five or ten years ago, we would be expanding with prices where they are now.  But, it appears that these price levels are not sufficient to encourage beef producers to grow their herds.  Herd liquidation is likely to continue until prices reach a level where beef returns are satisfactory to producers.