Looking ahead the next five years, stocker operators in all categories view the input cost of feed as their most limiting factor to stocker business competitiveness.

That may be one reason for another surprise in the survey. 47.4% of pure stockers claim to utilize at least some limit-feeding (feeding a fixed level of feed based on body weight) in their operations. Of those, 36.8% utilize it with 75% or more of their cattle.

The high number could certainly stem in part from the wide array of definitions for limit-feeding. It's high enough, though, to suggest limit-feeding is becoming entrenched in the business. Here again, high feed prices climbing higher might have something to do with the number.

For pure stocker producers, after feed costs, the next most risky limiting factors in order are potential return on investment, other input costs besides feed, weather and cattle-health problems.

For value-added respondents, feed costs pose the greatest competitive risk in the next five years, followed by potential return on investment, non-feed input costs, weather and land prices.

Across all ages and categories, the most commonly cited risks to competitiveness during the next five years are feed costs, other input costs, potential return on investment and weather. Of similar concern to producers 54 years old and younger, are land prices and availability for lease.

Based on tenure, the same can be said about the major risks being feed costs, other input costs, potential return on investment and weather. Producers in business 21-40 years are also most concerned about land-purchase price; producers with 6-30 years are also most concerned about land-lease prices.

The “pure” stocker operator

Compared to other operation types, “pure” stocker operators — those devoted exclusively to stockering cattle — are more likely to:

  • Have an off-farm job.

  • Run cattle year-round.

  • Rely on stocker cattle for a larger portion of their annual gross income.

  • Run lightweight cattle.

  • Run cattle in Texas, Oklahoma or Kansas.

  • Buy cattle from the Southeast.

  • Be more risk tolerant.

  • Handle higher-risk cattle.

  • Rely on visual evaluation to assess bovine respiratory disease (BRD) risk.

  • Process cattle the day of arrival or the day after.

  • Implant.

  • Place into grass traps before moving to pasture.

  • Place directly on pasture.

  • Feed a free-choice ionophore.

  • Use injectable antibiotic for mass treatment.

  • Use a veterinarian only in an emergency or once/year.

  • Collect group weights at arrival/processing, between arrival/processing and shipping and at shipping, as well as group morbidity rates.

  • Pull more cattle in the first month for BRD.

  • Have more death loss in the first 90 days due to all causes.

  • Treat for a broader range of illnesses.

  • Limit feed.

  • Forward-contract, use in-state and out-of-state order buyers and send direct to a feedlot.

  • Rely on USDA reports, order buyers and other stocker producers for market information.

  • Buy high-quality cattle, forward-contract inputs and outputs, to manage market risk.

Compared to other operation types, pure stocker operators are less likely to:

  • Farm row crops.

  • Run cattle intended for value-added marketing.

  • Require certified verification via QSA or PVP.

  • Test pre-shipment for persistent infection with bovine viral diarrhea virus.

  • Use nonsurgical castration.

  • Feed a complete receiving ration.

  • Consult with a veterinarian once/month or on every load of cattle.

  • Collect cost-of-gain and feed-efficiency data.

  • Receive carcass data, regardless of retained ownership.

  • Utilize retained ownership to manage market risk.