By Kendell Braden Born
Hill City senior
It’s the beginning of August, and for most people bulls are needing pulled and cows are Nature and grazing. Calves will soon to be weaned, and then comes fall planting season.
Stockers are typically weaned cattle that range from 300 to 800 pounds. They are bought by an individual or group that feeds them for 120 days, capitalizing on pounds gained. Stockers are beneficial in many ways to the environment. Grazing is a natural process of rangelands which help improve wildlife habitat and decreases fuel loads for potential wildfires.
A question often asked is “Don’t stockers require more management than a cow and calf?” The answer is “no.” Shane P. Ruff, an extension ag economist with Kansas Farm Management, said, “Potential reasons to switch from cow-calf-yearlings to stockers-only might include a desire to avoid winter feeding, eliminate calving, adapt more quickly to forage availability, or reduce disease-risks associated with breeding cattle without exiting the livestock industry entirely.”
Eliminating these risks has future potential profits for the rancher. Plus, not running cow-calf eliminates the cost of buying bulls, pregnancy checking and, potentially, artificial insemination.
Getting rid of cows and bulls maximizes the number of head that can be grazed per pasture. Most of the time, when grass is adequate, the stocking rate is one cow-calf pair per 10 acres. Stockers can usually be run one head per two acres for 100 days, which is usually the time frame that they are grazed.
With stockers, the grazing potential is greater and more valuable. For example, May 1, we turn cows out to grass and usually pull cows off of grass in September. With stockers, we turn out May 1 and at 100 days are pulled off in the middle of July. Although we are grazing more head, it is for a shorter time and the grass growth usually is reduced by heat and grazing stress. Most high temperatures happen in July and August.
Cost, which is associated with everything, must be taken into consideration.
Jim Gerrish, in The Stockman Grass Farmer said, “The animal unit day/gross income value of summer stockers is $1.32/lb. and winter stockers at $0.88 per lb. … . Cows come in at $0.08 per lb.” With cows at a low, those figures show the advantage of running stockers.
Plus, with the average cost of gain being around 60 cents per pound, producers can capitalize on an extra 72 cents per lb. Most times if set up correctly, stockers can be run in the summer and winter, which allows two opportunities to make money.
“Stocker production has the potential to help manage forage and production risk,” said Andrew Griffith with the University of Tennessee extension service.
“Due to climatic differences from year to year, forage availability can be highly variable from year to year,” he said. “Stocker production can be used to reduce the financial stress that can come with variability of forage resources. Stocker production provides the flexibility to increase, reduce or eliminate the stocker enterprise relative to forage availability.”
Stockers make it possible to turn over your money twice in one year, but also to improve grasses and stock at a higher density rate.
So when the cows are causing trouble in the summer, and you are having to feed in the blizzards of a winter and calve in the wet springs, are you asking yourself, “Are stockers a more economical and better choice for me?”
Kendell Braden Born, a 2017 Hill City High School graduate, is a junior majoring in animal science at Fort Hays State University. Kendell is the son of Brandy Born, Hill City.