First off, let’s assess our current situation. As ranchers, where are we at now? In most cases across North America, we’re dealing with late fall or early winter; we have dormant forages, cows approaching their 3rd-trimester in pregnancy (if not already there), and then the obvious. We’re coming to the end of 2020, the year of COVID-19. The pressure that’s been put on the industry is immense.
But, as ranchers, we’re showing our true resilience as we bear down with all these pressures against us. That resilience is what makes ranchers who they are and gives them the ability to constantly adapt to whatever Mother Nature throws at them. Whether it’s drought conditions, too much moisture, disease, or challenges in the beef supply chain, it is the nature of a true North American rancher to stand up and face all of these things with resolve and a deep commitment to doing what they love: ranching.
2021: Let’s Start Planning
Looking forward to 2021, the message from Riomax® is a ‘stop, start, keep’ approach. That is:
- Stop the bleeding.
- Start reducing winter feed costs.
- Keep ranching.
Keep bringing profitability back into ranching. Keep living the lifestyles you love so well. Keep raising your families in a ranching environment. Keep producing a beef product that is not only wholesome but also safe and certainly a product that consumers can trust.
We often say, here at Riomax®, that we are all about success and sustainability, today and tomorrow. And we do need to take account of the order in which that is said. Without success today, we cannot expect sustainability tomorrow.
This drives home the question: how can we best prepare for a successful 2021? The real answer may not be the answer you expect. The success of 2021 depends largely on what we’ve done in 2020, as far as making wise decisions in our genetics, feedstuffs, and mineral programs. All of these things are impacting the performance of our herd going into 2021. Because naturally, the calves that will hit the ground during calving season in ‘21 were conceived in the middle of ‘20.
They say hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, what have we done? Or, what could we have done better to impact the performance of our cow herd? We can break this down into two main sections.
- Firstly, what have we done genetically, in terms of selection, to improve the genetics in our herd? What bulls? And possibly, what females have we bought in?
- Secondly, and of more focus to Riomax®, is the nutritional aspect. We always say a good, sound nutrition program is foundational to reproductive success. A good, sound nutrition program is essential to optimize the expression of genetic potential.
The Effect of a Quality Mineral Program
Further to that, let’s define a good, sound mineral program. It’s not just what the salesperson says, it’s whether or not that mineral is designed to actually get into the bloodstream.
Think of it. Seriously. If a mineral is fed that is not absorbed into the bloodstream, it is having zero effect on the performance of that animal. All it’s doing is passing through that animal; it’s not being absorbed and it’s being excreted out the hind end.
Counter to that, you’ve got the technology that Riomax® uses, where we have 100% protected trace minerals; in other words, 100% rumen bypass trace minerals. These are key trace minerals: copper, zinc, manganese, and selenium.
It goes without saying, but if your minerals can make it through the harsh environment of the rumen and into the small intestine, then they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. As we always say, get your mineral to where it needs to go. Once in the bloodstream, it is finally able to have an impact on fertility, immune response, fetal development, and overall herd health.
So, the best thing to do for 2021 is to have started on a good, sound program prior to calving in 2020. This would ensure that you had strong, healthy calves, your cows calved well and cleaned well, which then set them up for their next step: breeding up well, carrying the calf through the summer and fall, and delivering a strong, healthy, vigorous calf, come spring of 2021.
But, if you didn’t start at that point, the second-best way to prepare for 2021 is to start now. Getting mineral into the blood in the 3rd trimester is still going to provide an excellent impact; not on breeding success, but on calving performance. By getting the mineral into the blood, it will start impacting fetal development, help with fetal imprinting, and the cow will go into winter in good body rig. That leaves you with the highest chance of success and a healthy, vigorous calf if you’re starting now.
When planning for 2021 and reviewing ways to drive the economic model on your ranching operation, it’s important to take your forages into account. Many ranchers have begun to think outside of the box in terms of forage utilization.
Ranchers that rough their cows, and do it the right way with the right tools, like Riomax®, can greatly reduce their input costs through the winter and year-round. Think about it, the more we can enable the cow to harness from her whole diet; whether it be poor quality hay through the winter, alfalfa, winter range, or grazing any time of the year; the less she will depend on supplements. The more we help her optimize and utilize that existing forage, the less you will have to spend on wintering costs.
The first thing to look for when reviewing your annual profitability on the ranch is your biggest expense. How can you best manage that? We’re not saying that you can make the expense go away, but with an effective digestive program, you can enable your cows to run much more efficiently. Nutrizorb®, the digestion package found in every Riomax® product, has been proven to increased the TDN (total digestible nutrients) by 3 percentage points, according to the University of Minnesota. That means poor quality hay will function and perform like mediocre quality hay. Or, mediocre quality hay will perform and function like a good quality hay.
This is a tangible, simple step that every rancher needs to consider taking, in view of driving down your winter feed costs without, and I repeat, without hurting or sacrificing your cow performance.
A Holistic Approach
Further to 2021 planning, we recommend ranchers look at a holistic approach. By saying this, we don’t mean that everybody has to switch to regenerative agriculture or become a grass-fed operation. We deal with plenty of those, but we also deal with plenty of conventional-type operations.
The point in referring to a holistic approach is that we must look at the entire system, not just a segment of it. For instance, many folks feed a mineral that appears cheap, so it’s plausible. Yet, it includes sulfates and oxides. Sulfates and oxides have their place, but in the holistic view, they actually have a negative impact on rumen bacteria, according to Dr. Spears of North Carolina State. If we’re negatively impacting rumen bacteria, that directly correlates with soil bacteria. So although you might have a program that checks the box for one part of the system, it may end up having negative repercussions in other areas if we don’t look at it holistically.
When making key decisions for the next year, be sure to look at your holistic system. That includes what is beneficial for all segments of the system; beneficial for the cow, her reproductive performance, her digestive performance, and her immune system. Then, what’s beneficial for the biology in the soil, and hence, beneficial for the grass and the overall performance of your land base. For some ranchers, the very mention of soil health sounds like the snake oil discussion and they don’t want to go there. However, when you take that same group of ranchers and start discussing ways to increase the production of their land base in terms of grass, suddenly, they’re all ears.
I am not partial to whether you’re passionate about soil health or not. What I am passionate about, however, is how we can make the right decisions going forward for 2021.
What will make the biggest impact on your profitability and drive success and sustainability, today and tomorrow?
The holistic approach gives you the highest chance of optimizing all the components of our agricultural system.
Back To The Basics: Total Cost
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure you’re paying sufficient attention to your actual costs. Too many ranchers are blinded by strictly looking at upfront cost, without doing the due diligence to dig into their actual, daily cost to feed.
With a product like Riomax®, about 90% of the time, the upfront cost will be higher. In other words, the cost per ton is going to be higher than comparables. But, the cost per head per day is going to be significantly less.
Further, the risk is taken off the ranchers’ shoulders with the Riomax® COSTGUARD® consumption guarantee. When you budget for 2021, you can rest assured that the forecasted amount is dialed in, rather than feeding a product that may be perceived as cheap, but the cows gobble through it. If they eat between half a pound and a pound and a half per day, your cost per head per day and annual cost are through the roof.
Making the right decisions for your 2021 will impact your success and sustainability, today and tomorrow.
Do the right thing today. For your tomorrow.