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Copyright © 2015
Angus Journal

Survival of the Fittest

FORT COLLINS, COLO. (Dec. 3, 2008) — With costs continuing to escalate in the cattle business, cow-calf producers need to become more astute managers and find ways to add value to calves in the future. That was the advice of Casey Gabel, Cattle-Fax analyst, as he addressed participants at the 2008 Robert E. Taylor Memorial Symposium: Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle in Fort Collins, Colo.

Gabel provided an overview of the current state of the industry, noting that the U.S. beef cow inventory is expected to be just under 32 million beef cows in 2009 – the smallest inventory since 1963. Along with that, Gabel said cash operating cost per cow continues to escalate due to labor, insurance, diesel, vaccinations, feed, etc.

“Our forecast is showing it may take $436 to run a cow each year,” he said.

Annual cow costs may average $436 per cow, Cattle-Fax analyst Casey Gabel said.

Because of this, the breakeven price on calves continues to go up, which means producers need to find ways to make more money to stay in business, Gabel said.

To that end, Gabel emphasized that “adding value” to calves means finding ways to differentiate calves in the marketplace. He encouraged producers to develop a good marketing strategy, such as backgrounding options, value-added programs, and/or retaining ownership. For instance, quality genetics, calf health programs and weaning protocols are all ways to differentiate calves and can add premiums up to $60 per head.

“Find a program that fits your operation,” Gabel encouraged. He listed natural and organic programs, source and age verification, preconditioning and weaning protocols, performance history, and carcass data as examples of ways to differentiate calves — and add value — in the marketplace. Even humane handling is starting to garner interest as an added value.

Pounds are going to continue to be worth more in the future, Gabel said. “Finding alternative ways to put pounds on calves postweaning will be beneficial.” Using economical feed resources such as cake, grass, leftover hay, corn stocks, etc., may be worth it to producers.

“Genetics certainly plays a part in the profitably scenario for cow-calf operators,” Gabel said, predicting feed efficiency will have added value in the genetics realm.

“The gist of it all is that we are going to have to sharpen our pencils. We are going to have to become more astute managers and pay close attention to our input costs,” Gabel concluded. By adapting some of these management protocols, Gabel said, those beef producers who "are fit to survive will see some good returns as we move forward."

To listen to this presentation, view the accompanying PowerPoint or view other presentations from the symposium, visit the newsroom at

The Robert E. Taylor Memorial Symposium is conducted by Colorado State University every other year to provide current, research-based information for improving profitability in the beef cattle industry. The ARSBC program was developed by the Beef Cattle Reproduction Task Force to improve understanding and application of reproductive technologies, including AI, estrus synchronization and factors affecting male fertility. In 2008, CSU and the Task Force collaborated to provide the Dec. 2-3 symposium in Fort Collins.

— by Tosha Powell & Kindra Gordon

Click here for accompanying PowerPoint as a pdf file (1.6 MB).
Click here to listen to the audio (5.2 MB mp3).

Editor’s Note: This article is available as a news release to redistribute per an agreement between the symposium hosts and Angus Productions Inc. Click here to submit a request for a high-resolution photo of the speaker. For additional information visit the newsroom of