Riding for the Client's Brand
“We’re trying to produce the kind of calves that feedlots want,” Anderson says. Notice the possessive tone. As part of the client management team, he takes the same kind of pride in client calves and wants to see them succeed as badly as if he owned them.
Here’s one client example. Pea-in-the-pod calves are bunk-broke, trained to drink from a water trough and are so calm that you can walk through and touch them without even stirring up dust. The calves are identified electronically, are process verified for source and age, and comply with the standards of a number of branded beef programs.
“We have feedlots coming to look at calves while they’re still on their mamas,” Anderson says. “My goals is to have four or five potential buyers there at the same time.”
So, Anderson is also involved in helping clients market their calves. He also helps them slog through feedlot and slaughter data to glean useful, actable information.
Incidentally, by introducing commercial cattle clients to seedstock clients, Anderson explains other levels of synergy are possible. “I invite our seedstock clients to walk through the pasture of their commercial customers and study their cows to better understand what the needs are,” Anderson says.
All told, this systems approach is a living example of the Texas Beef Partnership Extension Program (Beef PEP). The program aims to improve the profitability and sustainability of beef cow-calf operations in Texas by increasing the knowledge base of two key groups of advisors: veterinary practitioners and county extension agents. Beef PEP began in 1996 as a partnership between the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, veterinary practitioners and a pharmaceutical company.
The results are eye-popping. According to 2009 data, statistical analysis showed a potential increase in ranch returns of $11.79 per exposed cow. The first program in 1996 helped participants add an average of 100 pounds to market weights.
These gains came by veterinarians and extension agents working together to evaluate participant operations and then implementing specific management practices revolving around nutrition, pasture and hay management, reproduction, herd health, calf husbandry, calf marketing and accounting or performance records.
“Realize that in most instances, animal disease isn’t the biggest concern,” Whitehair says. “Yes, animal health must be addressed successfully, but our clients can harvest more gold through production management.”
“We try to teach new veterinarians and externs that you can’t just palpate a client’s cows,” Anderson says. “While you’re doing that, talk with the producer about the value of utilizing body condition scores for reproductive management. That leads to a discussion about nutrition, and that leads to other topics.”
“The knowledge need will continue to grow and more veterinary expertise will be included in management,” Hollis emphasizes. “You have to ask yourself what new technology and service you can provide that clients can’t provide for themselves or be trained to provide for themselves.”
“Be the one helping clients sort through the opportunities rather than telling them what they need to do,” Whitehair says.
Whitehair believes veterinarians should consider investing in related education, such as economics, business management or nutrition. “That’s how you empower yourself to have the most value to the people you work with,” he says.