When it comes to production costs for your cattle operation, it can be challenging to determine exactly how much is going toward labor, especially if you are a family operation that doesn’t necessarily receive a “monthly paycheck.” And, if you have hired labor, you probably want your employees to “add value” to your operation, so you are willing to pay them for their skill set. Evaluating all areas of business can help determine if there is opportunity to offset or reduce labor costs and ultimately improve the bottom line.
Family labor defers expenses
Britney and Brandon Creamer are a sister-brother duo who are the next generation of Lazy JB Angus at Montrose, Colo. Although both of them work off-the-ranch, they are passionate about the cattle operation and try to help their family as much as possible. Britney said they don’t get paid with a check or cash, but rather with cows or embryos, making their investment in time worth it to them.
“I love doing what we do. And I’m super passionate about it, and I know someday when my parents are ready to retire or whatever will be, I’ll still have ownership or partial ownership with my brother on this operation,” Britney said.
Add value with employees
Brett and Laura Tostenson own Tostenson Family Cattle at Highmore, S.D. He said for larger cattle operations it is imperative to decide whether the labor they are hiring is just another production “cost” of someone to swing gates and push cattle down the chute, or someone to add “value” to the operation that will take initiative to get tasks accomplished and who has a true skill set like detecting heats, breeding cows, fixing fence properly and finding and treating sick calves. A study from the King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management reinforces that hiring the right people for your operation is key. And adds that the most relevant predictors of performance include a person who is a problem solver, quick learner, organized and neat.
“We are selling value, so that goes hand-in-hand with the quality of people who are going to be employed,” Brett said.
Employees should be viewed as an investment rather than expense, because at the end of the day, they are all you have to multiply your efforts. But, they are an investment that needs nurturing. According to Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, training increases productivity of employees by 23%. Employees feel more confident when they are knowledgeable, up-to-date and treated as part of the team. While payroll often seems like a daunting expense, if maximized, should generate great return in many ways.
Proactive nutrition reduces variable costs
One way to avoid unnecessary external costs is to engage in a high-quality nutrition program that starts with a good mineral package. In addition to being involved with their family’s cattle operations, Britney and Brett are Area Sales Managers for BioZyme® Inc. and have witnessed customer success stories over the years. By being proactive with a program like the Vita Charge® line that combats stress and supports the animal’s immune system. Vita Charge contains Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic, research-proven to combat stress by supporting the animal's own immune system, significantly increasing intake and nutrient utilization.
Producers who have used the Vita Charge line have found significant savings in veterinary costs and treating sick animals due their animals staying healthier overtime. Britney shares about one of her customers.
“I have one producer in Southern Utah that buys high-stress cattle from the Arizona Strip. We saved him $17,000 in his drug bill alone the first year he used the Vita Charge Cattle Drench because he didn’t have to treat sick cattle after he got them in,” she said.
Brett suggests that the after the winter that many parts of the U.S. experienced this year, it might be beneficial from a reproductive standpoint to put both bulls and females on the Vita Charge Stress Tubs, especially if a producer wants to save money on fertility testing bulls. He shared one story of a producer in his region who had 100 bulls to semen test, and only 20 tested positive the first time, leaving the vet expense, time and labor of retesting of 80 bulls, an additional expense of nearly $2,000 that might have been prevented with the investment of a few Vita Charge products at $1.40 per dose, per head.
“Stress and reproduction don’t mix. I know that after 7 ½ years of working at TransOva; they are like oil and water. By regularly using Vita Charge products like the Stress Tubs and Drench, you’re making an intentional effort to decrease the stress on that animal to help improve semen and embryo quality. Get the expected end-results the first time, and you won’t have to pay the vet to come out more than once,” Brett said.
Cory Schrag, Marion, S.D., said he was familiar with the BioZyme products from the VitaFerm® and Sure Champ® lines that he and his family used on their cow herd and in their show barn. So, when they started a bull stud, he turned to the Vita Charge line to use on bulls that were having some challenges.
“We had a few bulls that struggled with semen quality issues in terms of morphology and motility. After about two weeks on the Vita Charge® Stress Tubs, we saw a significant increase in motility and a vast improvement in morphology. Some bulls that hadn’t been freezing (semen) for about a month and a half started freezing after about two weeks of having the stress tub available to them. We want to give every possible advantage to our bulls and feel Vita Charge gives us that edge,” Cory said.
A good mineral program is an investment, and although it isn’t necessarily a cure-all, should help you reduce some outside veterinarian and treatment costs while allowing your labor force to focus its attention on more pertinent activities.
Britney notes there are ways they could reduce some of the labor on their ranch, such as having better working facilities that would allow fewer people to do the same amount of work. However, when their facilities were designed and built, her parents didn’t likely know their ranch would grow to the size and scope it is today.
An investment in facilities can improve efficiencies making it simpler for fewer people to accomplish the tasks, therefore reducing long-term labor. Although the initial investment in facilities and equipment might seem expensive, the added labor costs could show you added savings over time.
Controlling costs isn’t always easy, but if you can work smarter and not harder, you can start saving on extra labor and external costs. To learn how you can start saving some extra labor and money, visit www.biozymeinc.com.