The Record’s Ag Report
With over 230 calves already on the ground this spring at the Lenard and Barb Vetter farm northeast of Linton, the Vetters said it has been an excellent calving season. The first calf was born Feb. 10.
“We have had a great year with calving so far,” Lenard said. “We would have liked it a little warmer, but at least the corrals are not dirty.”
Normally during the winter months, Vetter said there are some good, warm days; however, this year, it has been cold during the whole calving season.
Even with the cold temperatures, the calves have been very healthy. Vetters credit that to good nutrition mostly. But, also, they know how important it is to provide the newborns with warm, dry hay.
“We try to calve them out in barns, so they don’t have to face the cold weather elements,” Lenard said. “Every cow calved in barns this year, and, normally, we move them outdoors by now.”
Vetters have been farming since 1982 and have had beef cattle since 1989. For the past seven years, they have appreciated having a surveillance system during calving season.
“It has been so nice, especially when it is so cold,” Barb said. “We can watch from our home rather than constantly checking and making trips to the barn and disturbing the cow.”
Lenard said they have saved a few calves by keeping an eye on the cow through the camera as she is calving, to make sure everything is going well and detecting if something does not appear right.
The birth weight of the calves average 90 pounds, and by October, when the Vetters sell them, they weigh about 700 pounds. Last October, they sold their steers at $1.59 per pound.
“We were happy with those prices,” Lenard said. “We sold heavier steers in February and those brought $1.43 per pound.”
Vetters feel that is still a fair price and said, 10 to 15 years ago, they would have thought $1.43 was the best price ever.
“But now, the input costs have nearly doubled, so we need those prices,” Lenard said.
In 1989, their 535-pound steers sold for $.98 per pound. In 1994, 591-pound steers sold for $.80. In 1996, 700-pound steers brought only $.64 per pound.
In 1995, Vetters paid $150 for hauling a semi-load of cattle to the livestock barn. In 2012, the cost was $325 per semi-load.
As for the future of the markets, Lenard is hopeful the prices will at least stay where they are now or get better.
“According to the reports on the number of cattle there are in the U.S., we are at an all-time low,” Lenard said. “So the demand should be there.”
Vetter said some reports indicate the livestock numbers are as low as they were in the 1930s and 1940s.
“However, the cow is raising a calf twice the size of what she used to also,” Lenard said.
With the changes in feed programs, livestock management and genetics, farmers are raising and selling calves at much higher weights.
“We wonder what farming will be like 30 years from now for Corey and Joy,” Barb said. “We talk about that a lot with them.”
Vetter’s son and daughterin law, Corey and Joy, have farmed with them since 2009.
“Everything in farming has changed so much in the past 30 years for us,” Barb noted. “It will be interesting to see how the developments in technology continue in the future.”