While a traditional cowherd strategy for expansion such as buying cows will work for many producers, there are alternatives that may be more appropriate for some people. There are three options for expanding your beef enterprise: raising or buying replacement heifers, leasing breeding stock and retaining ownership of calves.
First, buying verses raising replacement heifers seems like an easy enough decision. After all, it would be much cheaper to simply raise your own females; however, ranchers must ask themselves several questions? Are the replacement candidates good enough to stay with the herd? Could your herd improve with the purchase of females carrying different genetics than your own cowherd? Will your forage be sustainable with an increase of cattle to feed?
Second, leasing breeding stock is an expansion option often overlooked. Share lease agreements are where each party provides part of the inputs to the cowherd and the revenue is shared in proportion to the inputs provided. Leases can be a fixed duration or on-going. Some are crafted to transfer assets over time, while also sharing risk. Share agreements can also help young producers get into the beef industry by providing labor and daily management in lieu of large investments in land and breeding stock.
Finally, retaining ownership of your calves is another decision to consider. Retaining ownership of calves beyong weaning is a value-added practice that provides cattlemen the opportunity for additional gross income and net profit. It turns lower value calves and feedstuffs into higher value animals. The accelerating trend toward value-based marketing also provides an opportunity for cow owners to fully capitalize on their genetics.
See the full report on expanding your cowherd at the Iowa Beef Center for more tips and hints.