I gotta stop reading this stuff. A recent article in a self-proclaimed “progressive” magazine claimed that July deworming was an often-overlooked opportunity to increase weaning weight and therefore profit.
According to the article, deworming can increase weaning weights by at least 30 pounds at a cost of $7.85 per cow/calf pair. With a market price of $1.70 per pound, the article suggested that the extra 30 pounds of gain would be worth $51 (30 lbs. x $1.71).
This thinking is based on the same flawed paradigm that has led to the economic ruin of family ranches. There are at least four problems:
- The Market Price v. The Value of Gain
The market price may have been $1.71 per pound, for a set of steers, but that doesn’t mean that the 30 pounds they may have gained due to deworming was worth $1.71 per pound. In fact, reviewing market reports for Valentine, NE in October, the value of the additional 30 pounds was between 30¢ -$1.20/pound depending on the actual weight of the animal.
The value of gain is a much better measure of the true value of production than market price. If you don’t know how to calculate the value of gain, watch this:
- The Cost of Inputting
The cost of the input may have been $7.85 per cow, but what about the cost of the inputting? In order to drench the drench, feed the feed or implant the implant, you need labor (overhead costs) and equipment and facilities (capital expenses).
The idea that, “I’m out there anyway,” or, “It doesn’t cost anything if I do it myself,” is a dangerous lie we’ve been telling ourselves for generations. In pushing productivity, we’ve made ranching even more capital intensive and physically exhausting.
- It’s Harder to Select for Low-Input Cows
Two animals grazing side by side can have different susceptibilities to parasites. How can you ever possibly identify and select for animals that are less susceptible to parasites if we deworm all of the animals? When we support the herd with inputs, we make it impossible to select replacements from the animals that would be productive without inputs.
- Parasiticides Kill More Than Parasites
Thinking that deworming only impacts worms in the cow is naive. It is well documented that some dewormers impact dung beetles and other organisms essential to effective nutrient cycling. Nutrient cycling and pasture fertility can be drastically improved when there is an active population of dung beetles and other organisms. The increase in carrying capacity due to these organisms can far exceed the value of gain realized by deworming.
I’m not suggesting that people eliminate all inputs, but low cost production models are usually more profitable than high input models. If you are Ranching For Profit you need to weigh the true value against the actual cost of inputs when deciding whether or not to use them.
- Posted in Ecology & Grazing, Labor Effectiveness, Production
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- Tags: low cost production, inputs, Parasiticides, Parasites, Market Price, Value of Gain, deworming, family ranch, weaning weight, livestock production, income, paradigm, money, Carrying capacity, livestock, profit, animal performance, cattle, grazing