It’s been a roller coaster ride for the overall economy, and the beef industry, these last few months – and the uncertainty and volatility are expected to continue as we move into 2009. Despite the challenges, there are some opportunities to be had for those who can adapt to the changing environment.

Looking ahead to the New Year, specialists at the Iowa Beef Center developed this list of resolutions for beef producers. While you may already be doing some of these management things, they offer good reminders of areas that should continually be re-evaluated.

1. Identify improvements that will have the most impact on your organization.It’s important to keep your resolutions focused and identify where your ranch business needs the most improvement and which steps will have the greatest impact on profits.

2. Build more flexibility into your operation. What are you doing differently to survive in this time of tight margins and high inputs? With the cost of feed and fuel ever in flux, and a host of other uncertainties plaguing livestock producers, it’s important that you have the ability to change how you operates, so rapid changes in the industry don’t leave you behind.

3. Better understand how to market your cattle timely and wisely. A rapid climb in livestock production costs, including a dramatic increase in feed prices, has changed the name of the game for those marketing cattle. It might no longer be profitable to market your livestock in the same manner as years before.

4. Improve your recordkeeping skills and organize documentation. With the implementation of mandatory country-of-origin labeling in September 2008, documentation has become increasingly important for all livestock producers.

5. Become a better steward of the land. Make sure you understand your impact on the land on and near your operation, and educate yourself on possible measurements you can enact, from utilizing rotational grazing to proper nutrient-management tools.

6. Better understand your cattle’s health needs and likely ailments. Although it’s not possible to keep your herd completely free of health problems, working with your veterinarian on a health plan that suits your particular needs will ensure your animals have the best possible protection from potential problems. Your veterinarian will also point out areas of your facility that may promote illness.

7. Further reduce your feed costs by managing feed losses. With escalating feed costs impacting your operation’s profitability, it’s important to reduce the amount of feed lost through storing and feeding. Introducing new storage methods and feeding equipment can reduce the amount of feed lost, giving you a break on your rising feed costs.

8. Develop cheaper feed rations that will still serve nutrition needs. Look into feed alternatives that might be cheaper than what you’re currently using. However, the feed ration you develop must still meet your animals’ nutritional needs, or the decrease in quality of your final product won’t be worth the savings.

9. Better manage your manure to get the most value from it. Manure is a highly valuable resource if it’s captured properly and used where it’s needed the most.

10. Improve your cattle’s comfort for more productive animals. Cattle that are handled properly in a low-stress environment will yield a better end product.

For more information from the Iowa Beef Center, visit their website at www.iowabeefcenter.org.