Arkansas has approximately 940,000 beef cows on 26,000 farms, which means the average beef cow-calf operation has 36 cows. Eighty percent of the beef cow-calf farms have less than 50 cows, which is typical of the southeastern United States.

Results from the Arkansas Beef Audit indicated producers with small cow-calf herds placed a high value on the lifestyle, and it was clear from the findings that they managed their herds as much for heritage’s sake – or family legacy – as for profitability. This group understood they make up the largest volume of beef producers in Arkansas and indicated the belief that the public had a positive impression of producers with small cattle herds.

Producers with cow-calf herds with less than 50 cows were concerned with rising production costs and a decreasing opportunity to buy land. Without the economy of scale needed to spread costs over a larger herd, the profitability of the small cow-calf herd becomes questionable, especially with increasing feed, fuel and fertilizer costs. Therefore, profitability and the rising cost of land were determined as future threats to their lifestyle.

Future opportunities identified by the small cow-calf industry dealt with improved production efficiency. Improving genetics, adapting to change and continuing education were seen as ways to make improvements. Producers see a tremendous opportunity to improve, but economics alone does not impact their production management decisions. Often, management practice decisions are based on time limitations because many of these producers have a primary job either off or on the farm. Therefore, the time these producers can devote to the beef cow herd is limited.

The objective of this fact sheet is to introduce a number of management practices a producer with a small number of cows can implement that can improve time management and beef production efficiency and, hopefully, profitability.

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