Keep or Sell: 5 Factors That Drive Retained Ownership of Calves

Walt Beesley

Oct 18, 2022

Should I keep my calves this year?

Retained ownership is a simple question with several complex factors that need consideration such as:

  • Cash Flow / Operating Capital

  • Feed Availability

  • Labor and Facilities

  • Genetics

  • Marketing

1. Improve cash flow/operating capital

When we work with cow/calf producers, cash flow is the largest limiting factor to retaining calves. Business models and past practices have been geared to selling calves at weaning or shortly thereafter. The market pays premiums (or less discounts) for calves that have been weaned and vaccinated and started on feed. 

FBN® can assist with cash flow by providing financing options and Southwest Veterinary Services, FBN’s official veterinary partner, can help develop vaccination and health protocols with you that add value for the next owner. 

2. Utilize available feedstuffs

Feed availability, especially in drought stricken areas, can be the factor that  prevents beef producers from keeping their calves at home. Lightweight calves can perform well on a number of different feeding regimens. Ingredient prices determine the best economic ration to obtain the desired rate of gain.

Rations can be developed utilizing by-products from low quality products, such as gin trash and wheat middlings, to higher quality products like DDGs and soybean meal. Forages also come in a range of quality from corn stalks to silage and alfalfa. 

Even with higher corn prices, small calves can convert starch to beef efficiently and cost effectively. Each situation is different and FBN’s nutrition team can work with you to balance a diet utilizing FBN supplements that fits the feeds available in your area.

3. Consider labor and facilities

Labor has become a struggle for many operations. Facilities can also limit a producer’s ability to retain cattle. Understanding the limitations and constraints of labor and facilities is a factor that needs to be considered while developing a feeding plan.

Retaining ownership does not mean the calves must stay on your ranch or farm. If you retain ownership and elect to send your calves to someone else to feed, ask the feedlot or grow yard if they balance their rations for effective energy and amino acids. If they do not, you may be leaving money on the table and should have them contact FBN’s feedlot nutrition team.

4. Reap the reward for genetic improvements

Why should others get paid for the improvements in your cattle herd? Many ranches have made efforts to enhance their genetics to increase feed efficiency and/or improve carcass quality. This work is sometimes overlooked by the market and the cow/calf producer is not rewarded properly for his/her investments. 

Retained ownership moves the ranchers a step or two closer to the beef consumer which increases the probability of retaining retail dollars.

5. Make a marketing plan

Marketing calves at each step of the supply chain comes with its own unique set of challenges and opportunities.

From grass fed to all-natural or one of many different post weaning vaccination programs, starting with the end target market in mind is key to optimize the dollar received for your calves.

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FBN Direct products and services and other products distributed by FBN Direct are offered by FBN Inputs, LLC and are available only in states where FBN Inputs, LCC is licensed and where those products are registered for sale or use, if applicable. If applicable, please check with your local extension service to ensure registration status. Nothing contained on this page, including the prices listed should be construed as an offer for sale, or a sale of products. All products and prices are subject to change at any time and without notice. Terms and conditions apply.

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Walt Beesley

Oct 18, 2022

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