Rich Porter of Porter Cattle Co. drives a pickup that’s 25 years old. Though kept in top running condition, much of the heavy equipment at his Reading, KS, operation is older than the young people operating it. For his 8,000-head stocker-to-finish operation, he buys and puts together what are admittedly the plainer, higher-risk cattle in the market.
All of that is to say that Porter knows where every dollar goes and why.
For perspective, Porter Cattle receives calves – typically around 350 lbs. – year-round, except during the fourth quarter, when health challenges run too high for them. These calves start out in potload-sized pens that open into grass traps of 10-15 acres.
For the first 30 days, Porter limit-feeds calves a starter ration at a rate of no more than 2.2% of their body weight. After 45 days, depending on the time of year, cattle move to either larger pens that open to grass traps of 65 acres, or they go to native grass pastures of 160-640 acres, where they’re fed a distillers grain-based supplement on the ground.
Ultimately, Porter markets the cattle as finished steers and heifers to Tyson Beef.
“We’re constantly looking for areas to trim inputs and costs,” Porter says. He adds that he also monitors costs constantly to make sure he’s exploiting value-return expenses as much as possible.
For instance, Porter explains, “I believe many in the industry use Rumensin® at a level far below the point of diminishing returns. The cost of Rumensin vs. the value of the feed savings or cattle gain is so overwhelming that you hardly even need to run the calculation.”
Porter runs the calculation, of course, and also relies on the expertise of his nutritionist. On forage-based diets, he continues to see what a slew of studies over the years indicate: Rumensin adds 0.17-0.20 lbs./hd/day of gain. Figuring added daily gain of 0.20 lbs. and today’s high value of gain, he and his nutritionist conclude that, across 120 days of grazing, Rumensin currently offers a net return of about $29/head.
In a high-concentrate feedlot ration, Porter and his nutritionist assume a 3-4% boost in feed efficiency. Add it up, and they calculate that Rumensin currently offers them a net return in the feedlot of around $13.50/head (basis 150 days on feed).
For the same level of feed, Porter says Rumensin offers him more gain. If cattle were fed to a constant rate of gain, the increased feed efficiency provided by Rumensin means less feed would yield the same level of gain.
Porter recognizes the economics would be different if he were feeding a supplement only as a way to deliver Rumensin. Since he’s feeding supplement to cattle on forage or in a ration in the feedlot, the delivery cost is already there.
“Then you consider the benefit I have using Rumensin as my coccidiostat without any added cost,” Porter says. “When we pull fecal samples after a week, the coccidiosis level has declined dramatically. After 2-3 weeks, it’s negligible.”
Using the ionophore has always made economic sense to him. “When feed costs are higher, the argument for using Rumensin at the highest possible level is even stronger,” Porter says.