What every cattle farmer should work toward

So many articles, speeches and lectures has been made over the last few decades about how a cattle farmer can and should improve his yields, his profitability, his calving percentage, his feed, his herd construction, weaning mass, etc. etc.

In many instances these lectures go into great detail and numbers are shared right down to the level of how a cow must ingest at least 10 grams of phosphorus a day during summer, so much of this and that during autumn, and so forth.

Although some of these lectures and information shared might be interesting, they do not address the most basic of principles explained in great detail in the book Ecological Cattle Farming.

A farmer should work towards a measuring system that measures the WHOLE and not the INDIVIDUAL. Let me be frank, increasing your weaning mass from 210kg to 240g has zero bearing on whether you are improving as a farmer and whether you are being more profitable or not. Adding to the above; veld management is much more important than anything else you do with your herd. Hence my slogan that I often use “Cattle farming does not start with cattle”.

Below I share a table from a farm in North West Province, Mr Sandy Speedy. I do not wish to explain every row in this table in great detail right now, but the principles and results of such a measuring system is as follows:

  • A cattle farmer must learn to look at his herd as a whole. Meaning you are farming with 200 000kg of live mass, and not 400 cows!
  • A cattle farmer must weigh his total herd once a year, adding during the year in-bound live mass (bought cattle) and subtracting out-bound live mass (sold cattle).
  • Measure thus the production of live mass every year (output over input)
  • Break down the above into, amongst other:
    • Production of live mass per hectare
    • Production cost per hectare
    • Production cost per kg produced
    • Profit per hectare
    • etc.

Here is the startling facts about the above:

  • It is easy to do! There is no reason why every cattle farmer in this country cannot do this. All you need is a scale and the will to do it!
  • Do this for 2 or 3 years in a row and your eyes will open up to opportunities, facts, insights, ideas that will truly make you wonder why you ever attended any “boeredag” to listen to some breeding expert talking about weaning mass and genetic nonsense.

I challenge you to start this simple program on your farm and to convince your neighbours/friends to do the same. This is the next level of the above that will simply make you unstoppable as a growing and prosperous cattle farmer. Once you can share the above data in a group, you will be amazed what comes out of it. If one farmer has much better production figures, the debate can now REALLY start:

  • What does Piet do on his farm that makes him get 25% more production per hectare than the rest of us?
  • But what is Piets’ profitability per hectare?
  • You are now comparing apples with apples. Not Bonsmara with Drakensberger. Not weaning mass or calving percentages. The latter is irrelevant when you measure the WHOLE!

Think about this for a second. Why does a maize farmer measure his crop and yearly production in the manor described above, BUT, cattle farmers only worry about the individual performance?

Production figures from a farm in North West Province