Even in the northern regions across Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, some producers are feeding stored feeds for as little as 120-135 days.

Planting crops for grazing into the fall, winter and spring can greatly shorten the feeding period of stored feeds such as: Brassicas or corn planted after harvest of small grains; winter rye or other cereal grains planted after soybeans or corn silage for late fall and early spring grazing; planting corn for later gazing during the winter months allows for high quality forage consumption, even with significant snow cover.

Grazing planted crops is best accomplished with strip grazing to limit access and improve grazing efficiency.

Balancing rations for cows and decreasing feed waste can lower production costs. Feeding average quality hay to the dry gestating cow can be inefficient.

Feeding stored crop residues can lower feed cost while maintaining body weight and condition.

Full feeding average quality hay to the dry cow is an excess of nutrients over maintenance requirements. Feeding lower quality, high fiber feeds, such as corn stalks can meet the nutrient requirements of the cow at lower cost of production.

Performance measures are important to consider when comparing cost of production and profitability. Attempting to maximize performance measures such as weaning weight and breeding percentage will at some point result in increasing cost of production. Performance measures should be evaluated and optimized.

Decisions to optimize performance should be considered as to how they affect cost of production based on pounds of calf weaned. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service data indicates, for example, that average calves weaned per pregnant cow was 93.6 percent.

Over half of the calf mortality came from birthing difficulties. An example of evaluating producers selecting low birth weight and calving ease sires can improve the number of calves born alive and also improve subsequent rebreeding percentage.

Producers selecting to improve calving can also select bulls with moderate growth and frame size to maintain or improve weaning weights.

Selection for high weaning weights alone can result in large cows that require more feed than smaller cows.

Comparing calf weight to cow weight is a good measure of cow efficiency and correlates closely with cost of production. Ultimately, cow calf producers should be comparing cost of production to pounds of calf weaned. This measure allows producers to best analyze management decisions.

Beef producers should utilize enterprise budgets to evaluate areas of improvement. Finding cost savings in the budget can help lead to profitability.

The most expensive area of producing beef calves is found in the feed costs. Finding better and cheaper methods to feed cattle without sacrificing performance is critical.

Cost of production should be compared to pounds of calf weaned rather than doing so on a per cow basis. In doing this, every management decision is more accurately evaluated as it relates to profitability.

(You also might be interested in Managing beef profits for long-term viability and Winter cattle feeding doesn't have to break the bank).