However, that doesn’t change the fact that, in some instances, the basics aren’t being adequately covered at the ranch level. A quality vaccination program is a must in getting cattle started right. That means not only proper timing and dosage but ensuring that vaccine products are handled correctly to maximize their effectiveness. Learning to handle cattle in a low-stress manner on foot is another, as are good facilities. These are additional key components of management that will pay back in dividends, perhaps to a larger degree in the future than has ever been witnessed in the past, he says.

“As there is more pressure from above, as in government entities or consumer advocates, I think adhering to Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines, and being able to tell people this is a BQA facility will be instrumental,” says Uden of where he sees the future of accountability regarding basic management decisions heading.

Utilizing DNA technology, as it becomes more accurate and affordable to identify and produce animals with the highest degree of disease resistance, is another future preconditioning tool that Uden suggests producers begin familiarizing themselves with today.

For those within the cow-calf sector willing to go the extra mile regarding preconditioning, a significant increase in return is attainable.

“We feed 100,000 cattle, and we can find the good ones. Right now, the market is really good, but we are still seeing a $10-$20/cwt. difference in cattle. The reason is that the guys who are managing their cows and the entire program, and telling the story of what they’re doing and passing that on to the second owner of those cattle, are making more money. Right now, if you’re talking $20/cwt. from high to low on 500-weight calves and you sell 100 of them, that’s a $100 bill each or an additional $10,000 you could have had,” Uden says.

Managing herd health year-round, optimizing and balancing costs (vs. focusing on simply being low cost), striving for prevention over responsive treatment, and implementing low-stress handling to the highest degree possible are all key strategies that will be demanded in exchange for that additional $100 bill going forward.

“Change is ongoing. If you don’t like change, you’re in the wrong business, and I think consumers will drive that change. That pressure is already at the meat retailer and packer, and will go down to the feedlot; it won’t be long before that pressure is down to the cow-calf segment,” Uden says.

Heather Hamilton-Maude is a rancher and freelance writer based in Caputa, SD.


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