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Keeping an eye on the clock when it’s time to gather and load cattle might be the most powerful way to manage shrink.
Rankin has witnessed instances where producers run all cows and calves into an alley for sorting.
“That’s a mistake because those calves can get a little mashed and stressed that way. I feel it’s more efficient to sort cows out of a pen, then run the calves into an alley to sex sort.
“Doing it that way, if you’ve got enough crew, you can be sorting the cows off and sexing calves simultaneously, and everyone can be done at just about the same time,” he says.
Rankin also hires out his portable scales to ranchers who want to weigh on their ranch and don’t own a scale.
“One outfit has used my scales multiple years. In the second year, I commented that if they tried sorting as I do to reduce the amount of time cattle spend in the corral, it would make them lots of money. I helped, and we got done 1½ hours sooner than the year before. That was a 2% shrink we saved on 400 head of 400-lb. calves, which comes out to 8 lbs./calf, which is, at a minimum, $3,200 more in their pocket.”
Rankin says producers often don’t realize the true cost of following a system just because that’s the way they’ve always done it.
“People need to keep their marketing options open, and pay attention to what’s happening in the entire industry. This is a worldwide market, with worldwide impacts on our local prices. People need to be in tune with what’s going on in every facet of agriculture worldwide to make the best decision of when and where to market their cattle,” Rankin says.
“Sometime this winter, when you’re done feeding and you go in and have a couple hours to work on bookwork, sit down and do a little analysis of your own. Put in the prices you got last year, estimate the shrink-related weight loss, and come up with an estimate on how much pay weight you had at the end of the process. Then you can multiply those pounds lost by the price you got, and that’s the estimate of how much it cost you to sell in that market,” Bastian suggests.
Bastian recommends then using that number as a breakeven to compare different marketing options, and determine if you’re ahead or behind with your current choices.
“Maybe you can make some changes and put a few extra dollars in your pocket. Sometimes people get fixated on the price they received, as opposed to the marketing costs they incurred as a result of accepting that price in that market. Being mindful of those marketing costs can make you more money,” Bastian says.