My wife and I got into the cattle business about 6 years ago, more for the marketing and not so much the stockmanship at the time. Now it is for both. It is amazing how well both go hand in hand. It is incredible how much we have learned and continue to learn each day. Right when you think you have things figured out you find out you haven’t even scratched the surface. We learn stuff every day. We bought the low stress handling and livestock marketing methods hard drive a few years back. We have both watched it several times and as we do quite a bit of driving at times, we thought if we could just listen to it while driving it would be very helpful. So I plugged it into the USB media/player in my truck and much to my delight, there is about 2 hours of it that you can listen to. Now, I have probably listened to those same 2 hours over 15 times. Every time, and I do mean every time, we have each picked up on some thing new. It might not necessarily be the same things at the same time, which is also interesting, but that is another story.
Now, on to one of our learning experiences that happened this spring. I had a gentleman approach me about putting 100 head or so in our feed yard. He operates a feed yard and needed some extra space. With the way things were going, he didn’t want to turn any business away because he usually gets a little slower in the summer months. He hoped by doing this he would stay fuller for the slow times. I told him I wasn’t as interested in just dry lotting them, but I would like to experiment with some grass feeding and supplement feeding them. I didn’t have enough cattle for the amount of grass that I have, especially in the spring flush. I told him that I would monitor their weights fairly closely for him. So 100 head turned into 200 head fairly quickly. In early April 2016, we received the first 200 head, and weighed them 1 mile from the house on the truck as they came in. They only traveled 10 miles so that was no big deal. Upon arrival they were 5 & 6 weights. We worked with them and settled them down fairly good. Once again we got our stockmanship video out to brush up, wanting to do things especially right as they were not our calves. Right away he didn’t want me to turn them out. He was afraid they would run right through my fences. We worked with them, and after two days we put them out on grass for a short period of time at first. Each day we would bring them in and supplement feed them. We left them out more and more each day bringing them in each evening as he requested.
He told me he was hoping to put 1.8lbs on them a day. He was bringing his ration over in a semi belt truck and I was supplement feeding them from that mix. I assured him that I would weigh them so that he knew if something was going wrong with them. He said that his hired man would do the doctoring and he would pay for all the medicine. I told him that as long as I could do what I wanted with the cattle and was able to experiment, I would do it his way. I would do the first group of 100 and go from there to work out a price for my grass and that I would be more than fair because it was my experiment on his cattle.
During all this my scale broke so I could no longer weigh them at the yard, but the calves looked good and were feeling good except for one, so I wasn’t too worried. I had the one that was a little sick, so they came and doctored him, I told him that he had a little fever and that he was fine. I did not agree with their method of doctoring, which looking back was probably a double negative; the calf probably never had a chance with both of our attitudes. He ended up dying.
The hired man came and told me there was another one sick and that he needed to doctor it, I didn’t agree with him but he said his boss would get mad if it didn’t get it doctored. I told him that I would talk to his boss and that he had nothing to worry about. I called the boss and told him that if his steer died I would replace it and that every thing was fine. My wife did not like that we were guaranteeing this steer. The Boss eventually said that he didn’t know how he could loose on the guaranteed deal so that worked for him. We made sure that the calves were up and moving several times a day and that the steer wasn’t getting any worse. He was sick for a few days but held his own. Slowly he just started getting better. The hired man kept trying to tell me that he was sick. I told him that I was going to pull his tag out of his ear so that he didn’t know which one it was. I also told him to stop looking him sick cause he was going to make him sicker. The tag made it to easy for him to point him out. The calf eventually recovered, my wife was happy, the boss was happy and I was thrilled.
Any way, they were still nervous so they kept checking on me daily, which was fine. I was watching the calves and they looked and felt like a million dollars. They would buck and play and were happy calves. I had both groups out by now and leaving them out most of the day. Moving them around, changing pens and listening to Bud & Eunice’s tapes for extra support. One of the things that Bud says over and over in the videos is to get the calves up and move them 4 or 5 times a day, hoping that we will do it 2 or 3 times a day at least. This is one of the reasons that I think they gained so good and stayed so healthy. Just like Bud says each time you get them up, they eat, poop and move around. I would go check them in the heat of the day, bump them up and they would go to eating. Some times I would move them, some times I would just bump them up, the end result was that they would start eating.
Later on I had about 100 head that bedded down in the middle of a pasture about 2 pm in the afternoon on a hill top, the feedlot boss wanted to look at them and I told him to just drive over there in the middle of them. He said he didn’t want to disturb them or make them run off. I said just drive over there and look at them, and they will just get up and start eating. His feed guy was with us and we drove over in the truck and sat in the middle of them. The feed guy was saying that you need to get them up in the feed yards and that they are claiming that the calves are healthier. Its part of the “low stress stockmanship”. I didn’t say any thing just kind of smiled and looked at them. Then they started in on how they didn’t have enough time in the day to do all that. Then I couldn’t help myself. I said well, how much time did that take, what 2 minutes and they jumped up and started eating and I left it at that.
A couple of weeks later, I told him that I had cut back on his supplement feed because the calves were leaving too much left over and didn’t want to eat it. There was better feed in the field. He was a little concerned, so I told him to come on over get in the truck and we would go look at them. If he saw some thing he wanted to change we would change it. He couldn’t see where they needed any more feed and I was telling him that if I feed them more they just nibbled and picked around and didn’t clean it up. He was worried that they were not gaining like he needed them to but they looked great. I also told him that a muscled up healthy calf hides his weight more than one just sitting around, in my opinion. He just kind of shook his head. I told him that Bud told me that the conversion rate on a healthy active calf was as good as you can get, as far as the amount of feed to weight gained ratio. He told me he didn’t know if he agreed with that, but he didn’t think it hurt them by any means. Whatever we were doing seemed to be working alright.
We were sitting in the truck and my wife and daughter were bringing the calves down off a big hill into the feedlot, we did this cause it made him happy to have them penned up over night. I told him that I probably should not let him watch the girls bring them in cause they were going to come off that hill bucking and jumping and running 100 miles an hour. Sure enough they did. He just shook his head while watching them come down the hill.
To make a long story short, by doing what Bud & Eunice taught us to do, and listening to the DVD, we had weight gains on one group of 2.9 lbs per day and 3.1 lbs per day on the second group for 60 days in the spring in Iowa. I’m sure this is not unheard for good grass in the spring, I would go for times when I didn’t supplement them at all. We ended up doing close to 400 head, and he let me do what ever I wanted to do. The lowest gaining group was heifers at 2.7 lbs per day and that took us through July. He sold them all right around 900lbs and said that he had done better with those than any other pen of calves that he had. They were shocked that we could drive right through the middle of them and leave gates open and every thing else. It just blew their mind how easy they were to work with. We are sure that we didn’t do every thing right but by messing with them 2 or 3 times a day and bumping them up all the right things we did definitely out WEIGHED the wrong. Bud once made a comment about, As long as you were doing some thing even if it was wrong, it was better than not doing any thing at all. How else can you learn? Boy how right he is once again.
In the last load of heifers they brought, there was about 75 of them and the hired guy told me, well, we will see if you can calm these down like you did all the rest of them and then he laughed. They ended up just like all the rest, easy to work with, nice handling calves.
In one of the first groups that they took back home, they had one get out through the bunk. They walked it back in and asked us if we had a pet because of how easy it was to walk right back into the pen. I told them we didn’t have any pets and that they should be able to walk any of them right back in. Granted that this is coming from the same guy that five years ago ran one heifer through or over four fences. Boy, how things have changed. I still haven’t scratched the surface, I am still learning.
Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot from the gentlemen that has the feed yard, but he also knows who Bud & Eunice Williams are and what they are all about. We are now good friends who enjoy each others company and enjoy learning from each other.