Veterinarians can play a pivotal role in facilitating the adoption of Integrated Resource Management (IRM) among their clients.

Dollar calves are here! Now might just be the time to expand your veterinary practice into business management services. Integrating the National Integrated Resource Management (IRM) program into a fee-based business management offering to beef clients may just be the thing producers need to increase their cowherds' economic efficiency.

Beef cow producers should first use this gained economic efficiency to build a financial reserve during the good times and then use this same gained economic efficiency to reduce costs during the next price downturn. The economic rewards to your clients from running economically efficient cowherds will never be higher than during today's high calf prices.

The industry's toolbox for helping producers increase economic efficiency and take more advantage of today's profit enhancing opportunities is IRM. The program focuses on profit-enhancing production and management actions coming from deliberate, careful analysis of production and financial business records.

The core component of IRM is records-generated management information. Without adequate production and financial records, producers tend to leave many profit-enhancing opportunities unimplemented. The key for expanding your business into management services for producers is to activate an IRM service program now while prices are high.

Ready For The Private Sector

A veterinarian's IRM service program should first help an IRM client assess his herd's current production efficiency. The next step is to assess the economic efficiency of the herd.

Once the production and economic efficiency assessments are in place, an IRM service program could develop a data-driven “action plan” to help that herd manager remove bottlenecks to profit one at a time and to measure the profit gained. What most ranchers need is someone to stimulate and lead them through this production and economic assessment, analysis, action plan development and implementation.

A sound IRM service program taps the expertise of several professionals. Someone, however, needs to guide beef producers through the process. Veterinarians, who contact producers multiple times each year, are the best-qualified professionals to provide fee-based IRM services to ranchers. IRM needs to be moved to the private sector.

A Seven-Step Fee Program

The core component of national IRM is the development of management information systems that integrate animal production, range management, animal health and financial management into a single integrated management information system. This is a system that sends one set of management signals to the beef cow manager.

A suggested seven-step IRM fee-based service program for participating clients could consist of four data-gathering steps and three profit-enhancing steps.

  • Launch a herd performance system.

  • Conduct an annual on-site review of herd performance data.

  • Set up a range inventory to document grass species, range condition and calculate potential stocking rate for that ranch.

  • Conduct an economic cost and return analysis of the cowherd.

  • Use data collected in the previous four steps to identify bottlenecks to higher profits. I recommend “learning teams,” which would gather around the producer's kitchen table to identify these bottlenecks.

  • Develop a 12-month action plan to remove one or more bottlenecks to profits.

  • Re-measure the business facts in 12 months.

Veterinarians are encouraged, however, to implement their fee-based IRM services program with beef cow producers slowly. If a producer tries to progress too fast, he will become overwhelmed with information.

I believe this seven-step program, which should take several years to fully implement, sounds pretty straight forward.

Harlan Hughes lectures widely to beef producer groups on livestock economics and consults with veterinarian practitioners regarding IRM. He's based in Laramie, WY; 701-238-9607 or