This, they say, is the Information Age. In virtually seconds, the Internet can provide you with practically anything you want to know.
In the livestock business, computerized, tamper-proof ear tags reliably transfer information from conception to consumption. We can get breakeven analysis and cost information. Ultrasound technicians individually scan our feedlot cattle and tell us when to ship them and which will be the outliers. Beef alliances provide carcass information back to the producer on an individual animal basis. We have EPDs, EBVs, BCSs, BSEs, COGs and on and on and on.
There's literally a deluge of information available to you, but are you using it? If you are "looking" at the information, is it of any use? Can it actually affect your bottom line?
The answers to all three questions should be a resounding "yes!"
A Strategy To Use It The key to the information is developing a strategy of utilization. First, decide what information is useful to you. Can you effectively and economically gather this information? Individual carcass data may be nice but unless you can trace the animal back to its dam and/or sire and then plan to use this information as a selection tool, it's of little use and an added and unnecessary expense.
Even if you can trace it back to the individual sire and/or dam, but only "look" at the data and don't use it as a selection tool it is wasted money.
But, information can most definitely affect the bottom line, especially if it is on the individual animal basis. Let's say that in our 100-cow herd we have 70% of cows calving in the first 30 days. By utilizing calving records and culling out late calving cows, we can move an additional 5% into that first 30-day period. In essence, we've added 30 days of calf growth prior to weaning. (5 calves X 30 days X 1.7 lbs./head/day gain X $78/cwt. = $198.90 or $1.98/exposed female).
Now, let's also assume we use weaning weight information to annually cull 10% of the least efficient cows for Adjusted 205 and Percent Of Dam whether she is bred or open.
If you adopt this type of information utilization method, you'll see tremendous effects the first two to three years. But as your "bottom-end" cattle become less and less bottom-end, the percentage of improvement will diminish.
For purposes of demonstration, it is more than safe to assume a 5% improvement in weaning weight the first year.
Therefore, to weaning our simple two-criteria information utilization system has provided us with an additional $1,813.50 or $18.14/exposed female. But what did this information cost?
The bottom line is that even a minimal information tracking, analysis and utilization system pays dividends.
Your operation may not be able to collect individual data because of size or outside employment obligations. There are a number of ways to utilize performance efficiency information to improve profitability without having each and every calf weighed and tagged, etc. Certainly, they are not nearly as accurate and the effect will be diluted, but they are far superior to no selection system at all.
The above doesn't take into account more efficient and predictably more profitable heifers kept for replacements through pre-weaning number analysis. We've also neglected improved winter feed costs as more efficient cows are kept, which winter more easily and on less feed.