Triple Heart Named Stocker Award
Narrowing margins are challenging enough when you own
stocker cattle; they're a killer when folks are paying you to start
"The biggest challenge these days is overcoming increasing operating
costs without being able to increase our fees to clients," explains
Brock Karges of Wanette, OK, who owns and operates Triple Heart Ranch
with his wife, Shelia.
"It's not just the fuel tank, it's everything tied to the fuel tank.
Increasing costs and decreasing margins are a huge factor in a
customer-driven business," continues Brock. "As margins get smaller and
smaller, and customers can't pay you more for your service, you have to
run more and more cattle." This is also true when you own the cattle,
but it's magnified when you don't.
That's why the Kargeses decided they'd better start running some of
their own cattle this year along with their customers. Not only was the
decision a departure from Brock's fiscally conservative leanings, it
represented a shift in philosophy about risk.
When the Kargeses began their backgrounding/preconditioning operation in
1998 they decided to own the land, but let their customers stand the
risk on the cattle side. Keep in mind, neither Brock nor Shelia come
from stocker families back home. They learned the business by working
for others for seven years before embarking on their own, from scratch.
These days the Kargeses put about 20,000 head through their
backgrounding/preconditioning system, besides grazing 7,000 to 9,000
head on summer grass each year.
In both cases, they explain, "Our primary goal is to generate as many
dollars per head for our customers and us while the calves are under our
control." Since so many things happen or don't happen to calves before
arriving here, that's obviously easy to say but tough to do.
"Your problems come by the truckload," Brock says. "You have no control
over what the cattle are, what the weather is when they're marketed and
trucked here, and no control over what happened to them before they were
marketed. Those are the three clouds looming over you, although you're
accountable for the performance, death loss, chronics, sickness and
health costs related to those things."
That's why Brock and Shelia created another business five years ago
called Grass Roots Beef (GRB). Briefly, trained regional GRB reps
provide the manpower, equipment, expertise and products to vaccinate
calves before they leave the ranch. Whether GRB members or not --
membership is free -- deciding to wean and get another round of shots
into the calves is their choice. But to receive Grass Roots services and
benefits -- including reduced-cost feed, minerals, pharmaceuticals and
pasture chemicals -- members must agree to let GRB put at least one
round of vaccinations into them. These calves are then eligible to sell
in approved GRB sales -- premium time slots at regular auction sales;
GRB reps are on hand to explain the health and performance documentation
on the calves, and the Kargeses have alerted a growing network of buyers
GRB calves will be available at the sale.
"Our goal is to help put preconditioned calves into the marketplace so
wherever they end up, they have an opportunity to make a profit on the
market side because we're taking risk out of the health side," Brock
Read the conclusion at the end of this issue of BEEF Stocker
Winter Wheat Hopes Dwindling
September rains teased folks in big sections of
winter-wheat country into hoping for some decent pasture this fall. The
dry spigot since says that may not be the case, just like last year.
Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University livestock economist, summed up
the situation in his weekly market comments last week:
"As of Oct. 2, 51% of Oklahoma wheat has been planted, 10% below the
five-year average for this date. More critically, only 22% of Oklahoma
wheat has emerged, 11% less than the five-year average of 33% emerged on
this date. The wheat that has emerged is extremely vulnerable to
continued dry conditions.
"There are reports that some small wheat has blown out with recent winds
and will have to be replanted. Emerged wheat needs moisture very soon to
avoid losing the young stands. In other cases, dry-planted wheat is
still waiting for moisture to germinate. In still other cases, the
locally heavy September rains washed out some dry-planted wheat that has
or will be replanted. All of this confirms that fall wheat forage
production for grazing will be minimal (in Oklahoma)."
Further, Peel says there's some indication a growing number of the
state's wheat producers who typically plant wheat for pasture, then
harvest a grain crop, too, are raising the white flag on pasture.
"By not trying for fall-forage growth, producers are in less of a hurry
to plant and will adjust seeding rates and fertilizer applications to
wheat for grain-only enterprise. Especially under current dry
conditions, it makes sense to reduce fall fertilization and wait to top
dress in the spring if conditions improve to increase grain yield
potential," Peel says.
Go to www.agecon.okstate.edu/livestock/comments.asp for
Peel's complete comments.
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Weather And Crops
Winter Wheat Needing Rain
"The Plains' emerging wheat crop was in need of a
soaking rain to ensure autumn establishment, in part due to lingering
subsoil moisture deficits," National Ag Statistics Service (NASS)
reporters said last week. "In addition, topsoil moisture shortages began
to appear again in some areas, particularly across Oklahoma and Kansas."
Using those two states as an example, 47% of the topsoil moisture in
Kansas is reported as adequate and only 34% of the subsoil moisture. In
Oklahoma, only 21% of topsoil moisture was reported as adequate; just a
measly 7% of subsoil moisture.
Harvest for some of this year's crops underscores the long-term
challenges of 2005-2006. For example, NASS estimates the winter wheat
crop down 13% from a year ago; oat production at a record low 93.8
million bu. (18% less than 2005), and barley 15% below last year at 150
For the week ending Oct. 3, according to NASS:
States with the worst pasture conditions -- at least 40% of the acreage
rated poor or worse -- include: Alabama (58%); Arizona (50%); Arkansas
(41%); California (80%); Kansas (45%);
Mississippi (48%); Missouri (59%); Montana (42%); Nebraska (44%); Nevada
(58%); North Dakota (52%); Oklahoma (63%); Oregon (51%); South Dakota (41%); Texas
(67%); and Wyoming (65%).
- Corn -- Maturation is at 88% or beyond, the same as last year, but 6% ahead of normal.
Maturation was at or head of normal in all states except Indiana.
20% is harvested, which is 5%
behind last year and 3% behind the five-year average. 61% is rated Good or better, compared
to 55% last year.
- Soybeans -- 87% of the acreage was at or beyond
dropping leaves, 4% behind last year but 3% ahead
of the average. Growers have harvested 19% of the
crop, compared to 33% at this time last year and
26% for the average. 62% is rated Good or
better; 56% was at the same time last year.
- Winter wheat -- 54% of the crop is sown, 1% more than the same time last year but 2% less than
average. Planting was 33% ahead of normal in Oregon, but at or behind
par in most other states. 24% of the crop has
emerged, the same as last year but 3% the normal
pace. Emergence was most advanced in Colorado and Washington at 46% and
- Sorghum -- 89% was at or beyond turning
color, 4% behind last year and the normal pace.
60% is mature, compared to 65%
last year and 67% for average. 38% has been
harvested, compared to 36% last year and 40% for
average. 32% is rated Good or better, compared to 49% last year.
- Pasture -- 30% is rated Good or Excellent, compared to 29% last year. 22% is
rated Poor and 18% is ranked Very Poor, compared
to 23% and 15% respectively at the same time last year.
States with the lushest pasture conditions -- at least 40% rated good or
better -- include: Florida (55%); Illinois (56%); Indiana (67%); Iowa
(61%); Kentucky (78%); Maine (85%); Maryland
(49%); Michigan (53%); New Mexico (62%); New York (61%); North Carolina (62%); Ohio (72%); Pennsylvania (57%); South
Carolina (47%); Tennessee (41%); Utah (48%); Virginia (46%); Washington
(40%); West Virginia (60%); and
Don't take a chance. Treat all incoming cattle with
IVOMEC® Plus (ivermectin/clorsulon)
Liver flukes are spreading and every load of incoming cattle could be
carrying them. The liver fluke problem is hard to diagnose and rarely
shows in clinical signs. Only IVOMEC® Plus
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external parasites, all in a single dose. Product
®IVOMEC and the CATTLE HEAD LOGO are registered trademarks of
Merial. © 2006 Merial Limited. All rights reserved.
Other Upcoming Events
Oct. 11-13 -- Texas Cattle Feeders Association
Annual Convention, Amarillo Civic Center, Amarillo, TX. For registration
info, visit www.tcfa.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 806-358-3681.
Oct. 24-25 -- Western Hay Business Conference, Red Lion Hotel at
the Park, Spokane, WA. Visit www.westernhayconference.com.
Feb. 13-14 -- Mid-South Stocker Conference, Cave City, KY,
presented by the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee.
For more info, visit www.midsouthstocker.org. You can also contact Jim
Neel at 865-974-7294 or email@example.com; John Bartee at
931-648-5725 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or John T.
Johns at 859-257-2853 or email@example.com.
Sign Up Now For BEEF Quality
Summit, Nov. 14-15
Sign up now at www.beef-mag.com for BEEF magazine's 2006
BEEF Quality Summit. The Nov. 14-15 workshop in Oklahoma City's
Clarion Hotel aims to provide attendees with the background, tools and
the environment to make the connections for involvement, and the
potential rewards offered, in the new beef-value chain.
The first day's program is devoted to outlining the opportunity
available in the new beef-value chain, the second to how to link your
production into that chain. Among the topics to be discussed are:
For more detail, visit www.beef-mag.com and click on the "BEEF
Quality Summit" box in the top right corner of the opening page.
- How U.S. beef consumers define quality.
- Quality, profit and the cattle cycle.
- International competition and opportunities for U.S. quality beef.
- Current international beef trade opportunities.
- Producers will discuss how they're paid for quality.
- Selecting a marketing partner.
- Evaluating costs, trade-offs and risks of various markets.
- Linking up with a marketing partner -- an opportunity to meet with
participating marketing channel reps.
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* Not for use in lactating dairy animals. Adverse reactions, including
injection site swelling, restlessness, ataxia, inflammation and
abnormalities, have been reported.
TETRADURE is a trademark of Merial. © 2006 Merial Limited.
Calf Prices Drop
Lower futures prices last week followed downturns in
both the calf and fed markets. In late trading Friday, fed cattle prices
were $1-$2 lower in the Southern Plains ($90-$91) and were $0.50 to $1
lower in Nebraska ($90-$90.50). Dressed sales in the Western Corn Belt
were steady to $1 higher, though, at $138-$140. Moreover, there is
increasing speculation among some analysts that fed cattle prices may be
positioned to gain strength. One indicator supporting the argument is
the fact that cattle feeders were able to hold out for higher prices the
previous couple of weeks and were able to hold the line in some areas
this week. Those in the bullish camp suggest that front-end supplies may
not be as bearish as some had envisioned.
That's fed cattle. Calf and feeder prices continued to decline last
week, losing $1-$3/cwt. for the week according to the Ag Marketing
Service (AMS). Reporters there note calf prices in some areas have
dropped as much as $20/cwt. in the past month.
"In the Northern Plains, calf buyers are waiting for a hard frost and
the completion of harvest. In the Southern Plains, backgrounders are
waiting for a good wheat stand and enough moisture to ensure that
pastures will at least hold their cattle until winter, which was not the
case last year," say AMS analysts. "We're currently going through the
typical October feeder-cattle cycle; yearling supplies have dwindled,
unweaned bawling calves dominate offerings, and wide temperature swings
make the preconditioning of these calves a challenge... As we move
closer to November, more of the calves will be longtime weaned, cooler
temperatures will put less stress on newly purchased cattle,
farmer-feeders will have their crops in the bin, and the Hard Red Winter
Wheat outlook will be better understood in terms of winter grazing."
Unless is gets real soggy real soon across much of wheat-pasture
country, that market won't offer much support (see "Winter Wheat Hopes
Dwindling" elsewhere in this issue).
The summary below reflects the week ended Oct. 6 for Medium and Large 1
-- 500- to 550-lb., 600- to 650-lb., and 700- to 750-lb. feeder heifers
and steers (unless otherwise noted). The list is arranged in descending
order by auction volume and represents sales reported in the weekly USDA
National Feeder and Stocker Cattle Summary:
| Summary Table
| State|| Volume ||Steers || Heifers
| Calf Weight|| 500-550 lbs. || 600-650 lbs.
|| 700-750 lbs.
|| 500-550 lbs.
|| 600-650 lbs. ||
700-750 lbs. |
| TX ||34,700 || $115.71 || $115.93 || $111.43 || $109.09 ||
$106.27 || $106.204 |
| OK || 34,600 || $122.11 || $117.59 || $116.454 || $111.93 || $110.65 || $110.87 |
| MO || 31,700 || $127.61 || $122.87 || $117.41 || $118.72 || $114.27 || $110.93 |
| Dakotas ||30,200 |
| KY* ||23,100 || $110-120 ||
$103-1163 || $100-1105 || $100-110 || $95-1053 || $88-985 |
| NE ||16,200 || $113.71 ||$129.162 || $117.52 || $120.83 ||
$118.28 || $111.41 |
| AL ||15,400 || $114-121 ||
$108-113 || $102-1094 || $105-113 || $97-103 || $95-1024 |
| CO ||12,200
||$122.682 || $112.39 || $116.14 ||$113.832 || $1106.964 |
| AR ||11,200
|| $111.58 || $107.70 || $108.62 ||
102.69 || $97.314 |
||10,900 || $102-117 ||
$93-115 || $90-104 || $88-113.50 || $85-109 || $85-90 |
| TN* ||10,900 || $115.23 ||$105.15 || $99.56 || $103.14 ||$95.91 || $91.78 |
| FL* ||10,500 || $100-118 ||
$93-103 || $91-95 || $94-105 ||$88-101 || $90-1044
| WY ||9,700
||$113.994 || $114.82 || $117.96 ||$118.312 || $97.217 |
| MS* ||8,600 || $105-1151 || $100-1053 || $95-1005 || $100-1101
||$90-100 || $87-904 |
| IA ||7,800
|| $126.934 || $114.334
|| $111.91 || $108.384 |
||7,300 || $90-118 ||
$87.50-1013 || $77.50-106.255
|| $75-1013 ||
| LAND ||6,900 || $108-115 ||
** || $98-108 ||
$95-1062 || ** |
| KS ||5,400 || $126.51 || $119.18 || $114.256
||$112.33 || $110.88 |
||4,700 || $116.85 ||
$108.22 || $107.15 || $113.01 ||$105.802
| VA ||4,400
||$111.83 || $102.14 || $104.84 ||$102.89 || $97.30 |
| WA* ||3,100 || ** ||$107.832 || $97.01 || ** ||** || ** |
| MT ||2,000
|| $119.082 || **
||** || $107.427 |
* Plus 2
** None reported at this weight or near weight
(***) Steers and bulls
Triple Heart Ranch
Nutrition Equals Health
This focus on health is also behind the Kargeses' emphasis on calf
nutrition and patience.
"We've learned through experience that good nutrition is the most
important aspect of a preconditioning operation. Nutrition has a direct
impact on the effectiveness of vaccines, reducing sickness, chronics and
deads," Shelia says. "Getting a calf started on feed quickly is better
than any antibiotic or vaccine. If the calf has a proper plane of
nutrition, his system will respond to vaccines and antibiotics."
Brock emphasizes, "It may take two hours to gets new calves settled on
the feed bunk that first day, but it's the most valuable time we spend."
Moreover, they say nutrition is all about the specifics. Though it ran
counter to Brock's least-cost philosophy of feeding commodities, he and
Shelia discovered several years ago they, and their customers, were
money ahead by feeding a total mixed ration.
"It changed everything. Sickness and death loss is so much less and the
performance is there," Brock says.
As for the patience part of the equation, none of the calves arriving at
Triple Heart are touched for the first 12-24 hours, but have access to
hay, mineral and water. After the calves are processed, Brock and Shelia
won't jump the gun pulling and treating calves, either.
"It's proven to me over and over again that the calf just needs time.
I'm adamant that as an industry we over-doctor cattle," Shelia says.
Rather than a belief based on conjecture, this notion, like everything
else at Triple Heart, is backed by extensive recordkeeping and
documentation, which was also born out of Brock and Shelia's frustration
with trying to control the unknowns.
When they first started, Shelia explains they received some
drought-stressed, flyweight calves that needed lots of doctoring, which
they did. When all was said and done though, the calves' owner accused
them of not administering all the antibiotics they charged for. So, the
Kargeses started documenting everything.
Literally starting with Big Chief tablets, Shelia set about recording
every aspect of the calf's time at Triple Heart. With the benefit of
computer programs, these days new Triple Heart customers receive a
weekly calf health report; existing customers receive a monthly report
with their invoice.
"Customers can deal with information, good or bad; it's the surprises
they can't handle," Brock says.
Incidentally, the report on any mortality includes the results of a
necropsy Shelia performs herself. "It really opens your eyes and the
eyes of your customers to what's going on," she says.
For all the evolution, the Triple Heart focus remains the same as when
the program started: "We love seeing calves come here, get healthy and
conditioned, then move on to the next phase of the business," Shelia
says. "You just have to continue to evolve and look for ways to
The National Stocker Award (NSA) competition was divided into three
categories: Backgrounding/drylot stocker (feed-based); Fall/winter
stockering (forage-based); and Summer stockering (forage-based). A
single winner was chosen in each category, and the overall NSA winner
was selected from these finalists.
Triple Heart of Wanette, OK, was named winner of the
backgrounding/drylot category. Doug Rogers of Collins, MS was named
winner of the fall/winter category. Each operation received a $2,500
cash prize from NSA sponsor, Elanco Animal Health. Overall NSA winner,
Hughes Cattle Company of Bartlesville, OK (winner of the summer
stockering category) received a $10,000 cash prize.
Profiles of each winner appear in the October issue of BEEF magazine,
available online at www.beef-mag.com.
Please send questions to:
Wes Ishmael, Contributing Editor, BEEF Stocker Trends, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Roybal, Editor, BEEF magazine, at email@example.com
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