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The Padlock Ranch’s current overall goal is to get through the drought and hold the cowherd together.
Marketing in a volatile environment
Patterson says marketing in today’s volatile environment is challenging, and the capital required is dangerous. So, they work to develop established customers, and participate in a variety of programs. Among those are Country Natural Beef and Agri Beef.
The ranch also works to upgrade the value of cull cows and maintain established buyers for them, too. If feed resources are sufficient, they’ll keep and add value to cull cows; if not, they’ll let someone else take them sooner. “We also look at the value of selling a cull cow compared to the cost of putting a new heifer into the herd,” Patterson says.
During last year’s drought, Padlock began to wean calves at 280 lbs. beginning in August, and put them on starter feed to extend the grazing period for cows. By the first of January, the calves weighed 600 lbs. Patterson says it was more efficient to feed the calves early and let the cows graze longer than feeding the pairs. Plus, it helped cows to maintain their condition.
After they sold the obvious cull cows, the cows that bred late and will calve in June (about 8.5%) were sorted off. If it’s dry again this year, those will be the first to go if cow liquidation is required. Even with that, they plan to market calves earlier than they have before, he says.
“We’re diversifying – getting out of that comfort zone a little bit,” Patterson says. “If we liquidate some cows, we’ll do it carefully. It’s not going to be a fire sale; it’s going to be part of the plan.”
Debby Schoeningh is a freelance writer based in North Powder, OR.