Five acres of land, a small pond and a desire for schedule flexibility does not sound like the typical path to success for cattle producers.
However, land in southwest Missouri can provide a reasonably priced home for a cow compared to other parts of the nation, which is why Missouri ranks number two in beef cows behind Texas according to Andy McCorkill, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
Cattle are a great option for people with small acreages and flexible schedules.
“I would encourage people in that situation to look into running some aged cows that you would buy bred, calve out and then sell as pairs. Another option is to keep them until the calves are ready to wean and sell them separately. Running young growing stock would probably be the best way to get some experience,” said McCorkill.
With growing cattle, a producer is hoping to profit from efficient gains of weight. That is doable on small acreages.
“In most years, October and early November mark the softest point of the year in the calf market so it is usually a good time to buy lighter weight calves if you can keep them healthy. You would then sell them at a heavier weight in the spring,” said McCorkill.
In this scenario, a person could buy back a set to summer that would be sold in July or August which would give the land some time to rest and stockpile grass until October or November when you would do it all over again.
“It would take good management of the grass for things to pan out at that intensive of a level, but it is what many folks do,” said McCorkill.
Water is, of course, a very important factor for cattle and for many people it can be a limiting factor. With a small pond, a watering tank is still going to be necessary.
According to Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with MU Extension in Lawrence County, says not to expect huge profits from beef operations. A lot depends on what you include in your costs.
“Backgrounding operations rely on buying and selling skills plus market shifts for profits. A $100 per head profit is a goal of many backgrounders,” said Cole.
Running beef cattle is viewed by many as a desired lifestyle and a great way to introduce children or grandchildren to cattle so they can grow up with an appreciation for agriculture. Getting them involved with 4-H may be an outgrowth of this lifestyle choice which can mean making a profit is secondary.
“The first consideration before you buy any cattle is to have something for them to eat and drink. The best cattle producers are the best forage managers. One beef cow and her calf require about three acres per year,” said Cole.
If southwest Missouri has a comparative advantage over other areas of the country in producing an agriculture product it is probably beef cattle, specifically cows, and calves.
“Even though our land is not overly fertile and seems high priced, we can still provide a reasonably priced home for a cow compared to other parts of the United States. This is the reason Missouri ranks number two in beef cows behind only Texas,” said Cole.
For more information, contact any of the MU Extension livestock specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Lawrence County, (417) 466-3102; Andy McCorkill in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551; Dr. Randy Wiedmeier, in Douglas County at (417) 679-3525; or Dr. Patrick Davis in Cedar County at (417) 276-3313.