Prove it every day
“I treat every head of cattle here like it was mine, like I wrote the check,” Horner says. “You have to believe in your program and prove it to yourself that it works every day. My deal is quality, not quantity.”
That’s not cheap talk, either.
In the spring and summer, his goal for pull rates is a maximum of 20-25%. In the fall, the goal is a maximum of 30-40%. No matter the pull rate, Horner strives for less than 1% death loss. This is on high-risk calves mind you, all sorts and weights coming from every direction possible.
Like everyone else, Horner runs into wrecks where pen death loss runs higher than 1%. But, since first establishing and using his current protocol eights years and some 68,000 head ago, his death loss in total continues to be less than 1%.
“I still get so mad when I lose a calf, just like when I was 21,” Horner says. He still posts his own deads to make sure his rationale and treatment were correct. That’s all part of the detail that goes into basic animal husbandry.
“Especially with the tight margins today, I don’t understand why simple animal husbandry is neglected,” Horner says.
“Sit down and figure out what you’re doing in terms of quality vs. quantity. As fast-paced as this deal can get, what are the rewards of quality vs. what you lose with quantity?” Horner asks. “We need to get away from this silver-bullet syndrome. It’s not any one thing that makes it work. There are lots of things we can’t control. Why not control the things we can?”