The many Secrets to • Successful Beef Raising AL MA MIC H. NOT FOR HIRE W. 9/20 WT. 7260 by Pan Brooks Jack Butcher personally selects and transports his feeder calves frbm the Dakotas every year. "You get a 'feel' for selecting the good gainers after a while," says Jack. T here are a lot of "secrets" to making money with beef cattle. And Jack Butcher knows most of them. Even then, he's happy if he "makes it big" one year out of five. Jack owns 200 acres of land near Alma, Michigan. He rents another 160 to provide enough acreage for the feed needed to fatten 350 head of cattle each year. A ' common sense" beef fanner, he doesn't think of fattening steers as a get-rich-quick proposition. "With cattle prices fluctuating the way they are, you've got to figure to pay your bills and break even four out of five years and then hope you hit it," he contends. And this philosophy has held him in good stead. He produces beef for just slightly more than 10 cents a pound—and he gets a fair price for his cattle. To do this, several sound practices are combined into a single, smooth-running business operation. First of all, Jack watches the market like a hawk. He knows that half the profit in raising beef cattle is buying and selling them at the right price. "I figure the only way to make money is to get cattle that gain," declares Jack. "After a while you get so you can spot those animals with the best potential just by looking at them." (It's only fair to say that this "eye for cattle" takes a while to develop. Jack Butcher has been in the beef business for 12 years.) "I like to buy cattle from the Dakotas," continues Jack, "because they are usually big boned, fast gainers with good breeding." But before every beef feeder rushes to the Dakotas to find feeders, Jack adds that Dakota cattle are only a personal preference—one that he's had good luck with over the years. He can't guarantee the same success for others. When Jack buys calves, he wants them weaned and hay fed with no baby fat. These are the kind of animals that will put on weight as soon as they start getting some high protein feeds. And this ibrings up Jack's second "secret" to success. "I don't believe in putting a lot of high priced feed into these cattle only to get them too fat for what the consumer wants," he explains. He feeds two tons of haylage and 30 bushels of high moisture shelled corn to put on about 500 pounds of beef on his steers. Figuring the haylage at $14 a ton and the corn (on a dry matter basis) at $1 a bushel, that comes to $58 for each 500 pounds of beef—slightly more than 10 cents a pound. Young calves brought onto the farm are fed oat- lage (ensiled young oats) and rolled corn to bring them from 400 to about 600 pounds. Then they are put on haylage and high moisture corn. "This means that the cattle aren't too fat at sale time—usually around 1,000 to 1,050 pounds," explains Jack. "They grade high good to low choice. Past experience shows that these cattle often bring more money than high choice... and on cheaper feed." And this brings up a third "secret": good crop yields at relatively low cost Last year, Jack averaged 150 bushels of corn on 60 acres. He had one field of hay that averaged 9-H tons (20 percent moisture) per acre. To get these yields, Jack depended on two things: soil testing and cattle manure. The soil tests showed him how to fertilize his fields. As a result, he applied 150 pounds of. anhydrous ammonia (gas), and 240 pounds of 6-24-24. A plant population of 24,000 plus about 30 tons of • manure produced 150-bushel yields. "Then the rain helped, too," reports Jack. "We had 29-X inches last year—not a lot above the average, but all at the right time." But rain or no rain, a 150-bushel average on 60 acres is nothing to sneeze at. Jack's good loam soil and enough manure to cover about 90 acres each year provide him with enough feed to fill his 20 by 60 silo three times each year with haylage and another 20 by 50 silo with high moisture corn. The cattle, which are housed in loafing barns, are fed four times a day in winter and six times daily in summer. They like that fresh feed, and they eat more of it," explains Jack. And that's another "secret" to successful beef farming! Good alfalfa hay and haylage, plus high moisture corn is helping Jack Butcher turn out beef for fust over 10 cents per pound of gain.
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