Yesterday we were suppose to be weaning our calves and sending them on a truck to Lethbridge Alberta. We decided seven years ago to start hauling our calves to Balog Auction in Lethbridge because even with the cost of trucking we would make more money than selling them in our area of BC simply because most of the feed yards are located in Southern Alberta. On Saturday we woke up ready to spend the day gathering all the cows that we had brought home from the mountains that were currently at a nearby neighbours field that we rent. Well boy were we in for a surprise, we woke up to a blizzard, but there was still a job to get done because trucks were coming the next day to load up our calves, so we had no choice, but to bring all those cows and their calves home. We got dressed up really warmly and headed out on our horses. By the time we got the cows home we were cold to say the least, but we also started having second thought about sending our calves on a liner the next day when they were wet and cold. This is important because weaning is a stressful time of year for the animals (the calves are taken away from their mom’s), so we try and make it as stress free as possible. We decided adding the weather variable to the calves at this pivotal time wasn’t a good idea. We want our calves to look their best and be as healthy as possible when they go through the auction ring. If a feedlot buys our calves and they are healthy and do not get sick they will perform better and that same buyer would be more likely to buy our product again in the future. In addition, we want to make that transition for the calf as stress free as possible, so that means sending them away in the best possible health condition.
We were humming and hawing about if we should cancel flights and cancel the truck that was coming, so we decided to phone Balog’s and see what the weather was doing over there when we found out some more bad news. The market on calves dropped 30 cents since last week. Prices had been strong all fall and we were really excited that we might actually make some money in this crazy business, but we were a week late! We made the decision to hold our calves and keep our fingers crossed that the market picks back up. This year we were lucky enough to have an extra 250 round bales (we had a great season for growing hay), so that helped our decision. Last year for example this would have been a tougher decision to make because we didn’t have enough feed and had to buy some, so if we held our calves over for longer that means more pasture is being used and then more hay would have to be bought, which only increases our input costs.
The cattle business is tricky because markets are volatile and it is a business and you have to make business decision and follow the markets. It is a lot more complicated than people think we can no longer survive just being good producer or knowing our cattle we have to know and understand markets as well.
We are hoping our decision of keeping our calves pays off and the markets will increase again soon!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture when it was snowing on Saturday, I think my fingers would have been too cold to operate my camera anyways. Here is a picture from today of all the calves and cows still in the field and snow in the mountains above. It still feels strange the calves are suppose to be gone right now and I should be in Lethbridge….
Here are some pictures of our 2013 calf crop. These guys are only 8 months old. The mamas did a great job this summer and we have some beautiful calves!