A 2012 census indicated that almost half of Texas’s cow herds are in herds of 100 or more, but they represent less than 10% of the farms and ranches in Texas. That means 90% of the folks own the other half of the cow herds, indicating there are lots of small cow herds in Texas. Dr. Rick Machen, formerly with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, wrote a paper entitled “7 Things Every Small Cattle Producer Should Know” and I am going to talk about those today since there are lots of small producers.
His first point is to be good stewards of the land and resources such as soil, water, grass and livestock. The second thing is to have a herd health program designed by your veterinarian. They know the diseases and parasites in your area and the vaccines and medications that are affective and those that are not. You may not think you have enough cows to have a herd health program but that is incorrect as even a few cows is a significant investment and saving as many as possible is worthwhile. Thirdly, make sure your cows get enough to eat. You don’t want them to be fat but you certainly do not want them to be thin. Reproductive performance is the fourth concept to focus on and Dr. Machen indicates it is the most important factor in profitability and is more important than growth. In other words, the number of calves weaned is more important than weaning weight so make sure you have fertile bulls and cows. The fifth point is to have your hay analyzed, feed quality hay, and minimize hay loss. The sixth point is to purchase products, including hay, in larger quantities to get a better price and consider leasing bulls and equipment rather than buying to save money. Lastly, learn all you can by attending beef cattle seminars as the knowledge you gain will reap future benefits.