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Best management practices for ranchers compiled in book form

If there’s one thing true about cow-calf production, it’s that nothing is simple. Everything is inter-related in a very complicated system, and what you do in one part of your ranch management  affects your operation in many other ways.

To help ranchers in The upper Midwest understand those inter-relationships and work through the many and varied management decisions that have to be made every day, SDSU Extension recently released “Best Management Practices for Cow-Calf Production,” which was developed as a go-to resource for cattle producers.

"This iBook is really unique. Fresh and up-to-date, there isn't anything like it available for cattle producers in this region of the country," said Barry Dunn, South Dakota Corn Utilization Council Endowed Dean of the SDSU College of Agriculture & Biological Sciences, SDSU Extension director.

More than 20 South Dakota State University faculty and SDSU Extension staff contributed to the peer-reviewed iBook which serves as a comprehensive resource containing the latest in research-based information on all aspects of the cow-calf industry, including developing heifers, integrating backgrounding, systems management, nutrition, reproductive technologies and management, health programs, genetic testing, marketing strategies and range and pasture management innovations.  

"Whether you're a seasoned cattle producer or just starting out, this iBook is a valuable resource providing applicable information on best management practices critical to a cow-calf operation," said Rosie Nold, co-editor of the book and SDSU associate professor.

As an iBook, the resource is interactive, and when new information is released, the book can be updated more quickly than traditional hard-cover books.

"Even a seasoned producer needs an up-to-date guide because the beef industry is continually changing. Today, there are fewer producers, larger herds and the genetic potential of animals has improved dramatically," said Joe Cassady, SDSU Animal Science Department head and professor.

As changes to the herd, feed supplies or farm and ranch goals occur, cow-calf producers respond by adapting and improving their management practices. "This book is designed as a go-to tool to help them make decisions based on the latest research," Cassady said.

Although all the information is scientific and research-based, this iBook is written for the layperson, explained Cassady. "Cattle producers don't go to academic journals for information. We developed this book so they would have the information they need in an easy to understand and navigate format."  

For example, the section on reproductive management pulls heavily from recent research conducted at SDSU by Dr. George Perry, animal science professor and co-editor of the book. 

The iBook will also be used as a text book.

"Truly a living book, this is one textbook our students can take with them to utilize it as a reference guide whether they return to their family's cow-calf or feedlot operation or work in the industry as a feed or pharmacy rep," said Dunn, who spent the first 20 years of his career ranching and the next 10.5 years teaching beef production at SDSU and Texas A&M University, Kingsville. 

Before its release, this iBook underwent a third-party, peer-review conducted by experts in each specialty area. To purchase this iBook, visit