Natural Herd Doubling

Yesterday’s post was about maximizing my purchasing power by looking for things that are lagging inflation. Price relationships between goods are complicated and subject to interpretation. This is an imprecise thing. I can be much more precise about other aspects of that post.

I found a comment about my post in another internet, far, far away suggesting I should just increase my herd naturally. That time is often easier to come by than is money.

Well, that’s not…wrong. But I wanted to look at that in detail because it is helpful to see how much time is involved.

The cow math is fairly simple. Feel free to use excel. If you have a good group of cows you’ll still cut out 10% of them every year.  We cull the three Os; Old, Open and Ornery. Early on it happens easily. You cut out cows that won’t stay fenced, cows that always have their head up in alarm and cows that come up open. Beyond that, I’m working to improve my herd over time. Aiming for some level of uniformity. Most importantly, I am building toward a group of cattle adapted for my little piece of Illinois. That may take my entire lifetime. So each year we plan to remove 10% of the herd and plan to continue that practice indefinitely.

Half of the calves born will be heifers.  A heifer will have her first calf at 24 months (or else). Only a portion of the heifers born will be worth keeping. Let’s make things move quickly by suggesting I could keep 75% of the heifers born.

Every year I lose 10% of my breeding-aged animals. I keep 37.5% of calves born as future breeding stock. At two years each of those first-calf heifers bring me a calf. If we carry this through I’ll successfully double my herd of 10 heifers by 2021. I’ll successfully stock my farm in 2027. The year I turn 51.

So, yes. It will happen in time. I can’t get those years back. My pasture will be weakened by undergrazing until my farm is stocked. What were those years worth?

Then again, I have to balance this thinking with the knowledge that I’ll never find just the right cow at just the right price. There is a certain measure of make-do in my herd. There is a large measure of financial restraint expressed in my herd. And that’s how it is.

Cows are more like the farm’s savings account than the farm’s primary revenue generator…both in terms of finances and in terms of fertility. Another comment yesterday suggested I focus on building cash in a hurry so I can build the herd…so I can save toward my future solar-powered cash-generation engine. More on that another time.

4 thoughts on “Natural Herd Doubling

  1. If you want to get into that argument and actually have the money (or willing or able to leverage). Don’t buy “cows” and instead buy “stockers” and use them to convert the excess land and grass into cash. If you’re worried about the market bottoming between today’s purchase price and future sale price 9-12 months from now? Simple, hedge their price using a futures contract. At the very worst you will “break even” not even accounting for the “free” fertilizer and hoof action. Problem solved… I just don’t want to deal with stockers and this point in my operation.

  2. Yeap, that was me Dr. LaBaume mentioned in the interview. He’s been trying to talk me into stockers for about 6 months now. My problem with stockers is you have no idea what your getting unless you find them all yourself. If you go through a broker (to use a futures contract) you have to trust them and take them at their word. And pay the premium to top it off. I’ve found a few stocker operations I trust with some decent “grass fed genetics” to direct market. But again, the premium is expensive and I don’t think I can move that many (50 per trailer load) to justify the cost.

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