The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source
site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
June 1984 Bulletin 845
Beef Cattle Production in
Jefferson County, Florida
David J. Zimet, Thomas H. Spreen, and Christina H. Gladwin
Agricultural Experiment Stations
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville
F. A. Wood, Dean for Research
Beef Cattle Production in
Jefferson County, Florida
David J. Zimet
Thomas H. Spreen
Christina H. Gladwin
The authors are adjunct assistant in, associate professor, and
assistant professor, Food and Resource Economics Department,
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.
Table of Contents
Introduction .............................................. 1
The Study Area ............................................... 1
Soils and Winter/Early Spring Pastures .................. 2
"The Survey Instrument and Technique ..................... 2
General Farm and Family Information ......................... 3
Family Size and Labor ................................... 3
Acreage and Crops ....................................... 5
Herd Size ................................................ 7
Changes in Crop Mix and Herd Size ...................... 7
General Management and Herd Descriptions ................... 9
Cow/Calf Operations ..................................... 9
Stocker Operations ...................................... 10
Herd Management: Specific Recommended Practices ............ 10
Worming and Control of Flies and Other
External Parasites ...................................... 10
Controlled Breeding ..................................... 12
Implants or Growth Stimulants .......................... 13
Feed and Forage ............................................ 14
Issues Concerning Herd Management and Forage Programs ....... 16
Marketing: Methods and Issues ............................. 16
Methods of Sale and Purchase ........................... 16
Marketing Issues and Strategies ........................ 17
Final Remarks .............................................. 19
Appendix A .................................................. 21
Appendix B .................................................. 36
Beef Cattle Production in
Jefferson County, Florida
In 1982 the Florida legislature provided a special allocation
to the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) to study
the Florida beef cattle industry. The focus of this allocation
"was to promote an increase in the pounds of beef sold by Florida
cattlemen and consider the feasibility of increased finishing and
slaughter of cattle in Florida.
To contribute to the IFAS beef research effort, a study was
initiated to evaluate the beef production potential by cattlemen
in North and West Florida. This area is considered particularly
important because of the ability to support cool season pastures
and produce other crops which can be used as cattle feeds.
A first step in evaluation of production potential is to
document the current level of production and management practices
used by cattlemen in the North and West Florida areas. Some
information can be compiled from other sources, but no detailed
information on ,current production practices was available.
Detailed interviews of 28 cattle producers and two former pro-
ducers in Jefferson County were conducted. The purpose of this
bulletin is to present the results of that survey.
Each interview sought to address two particular questions. A
recent survey of cattle producers in southwest Florida indicated
that a significant number of producers do not follow recommended
practices such as limiting jhe length of the breeding season and
implanting of feeder calves. The question is whether this is the
case in North Florida and, if so, why do producers not follow
recommended practices? The second question deals with the reten-
tion of feeder calves beyond weaning. What are the characteris-
tics that identify those producers who background feeder cattle,
and can these characteristics be fostered in others?
The Study Area
Jefferson County, Florida, is located in North Florida,
bordered on the north by Georgia and the south by the Gulf of
Mexico. It encompasses approximately 605 square miles of which
about 40% is in commercial crop and livestock production (exclud-
ing timber). The 1980 population was about 10,000. The northern
part of the county is rolling crop, range, and forest land,while
the southern part is low and swampy, supporting little commercial
1IFAS, University of Florida, Benchmarking Beef-Forage
Practices, Tampa Bay Area, 1982 Summary, Gainesville, FL (forth-
Soils and Winter/Early Spring Pastures
The soils of the northern part of Jefferson County contain a
certain amount of clay. (This is also true for an entire strip of
the Panhandle along the Georgia border. In terms of soils the
region is more a part of Georgia than a part of Florida.) The
clay enhances the moisture retention of the soil, which in turn
permits the planting or seeding of cool weather crops in September
and October. This is a key aspect of the North Florida livestock
production pattern, as a series of cool weather pastures and
forages--rye, ryegrass, oats, and clover--can be planted and
grazed. Frequently these forage crops are seeded in row crop
fields after the latter (most especially corn) have been har-
vested. Another frequently used planting technique is to over-
seed permanent pasture with winter and early spring pasture
(henceforth called winter pasture). Another important feature of
the winter pasture seeding is that crops are often planted in
conjunction with each other--ryegrass with oats, rye with rye-
grass, rye with clover, etc. This method, because of different
moisture and temperature tolerances of the crops, affords some
risk protection. Also, if inoculated, the clover reduces chemical
nitrogen requirement. Regardless of the specific method of seed-
ing and the specific crop combination used, the objective of the
producers is to "keep things green year round" so as to minimize
the purchase of feed and fiber.
In sum, because of the combination of soil and climate, high
quality winter pastures can be grown in Jefferson County (and in
much of the Panhandle). These pastures permit good maintenance of
brood cows over the winter. They also permit backgrounding of
newly weaned calves over the winter. Stockers from the winter
backgrounding program can then be sold in the spring. Indeed,
because of this situation there are two board sales held in Jef-
ferson County--one in Monticello and the other in Waukeenah--in
The Survey Instrument and Technique
Jefferson County was selected because the County Extension
Director was supportive of the effort. The questionnaire was
designed to elicit what beef producers are actually doing with
regards to herd management and a feed/forage/pasture program, and
to investigate why some producers do not follow certain recom-
mended practices. (See Appendix A for a copy of the question-
naire.) The questionnaire included many open-ended questions with
accompanying check lists to aid in analysis. The idea, however,
was to permit producers to describe their operations in their own
2Buckman, H.O., and N.C. Brady, The Nature and Properties of
Soil, Seventh Edition, p. 312, The MacMillan Company, New York,
Cattle operations are important agricultural activities in
Jefferson County. Of the 149 farms that sold cattle or calves
reported in the 1978 Census of Agriculture, 79% had fewer than 100
head of cattle and accounted for 17% of sales. Most of the
pounds of beef sold are produced by a small number of large scale
producers, while the average producer handles relatively few
cattle. It was decided to conduct the survey to discover certain
aspects of decision-making by cattlemen. Thus, at least regarding
cow/calf operations, most of those interviewed (13 of 18 or 72%)
had herds of less than 100 cows. It was not possible to find
producers with small herds that background purchased calves only.
A breakdown of the cattle producers surveyed by size and type
of operation is given in Table 1. A mixed operation refers to one
that produces both crops and livestock for sale.
General Farm and Family Information
The following section provides basic background information
on the producers and their farms. Although some of the farmers
could be considered purely beef producers in that their entire
operation revolves around producing feed for their cattle, most of
the beef producers in the county also produ crops commer-
cially. (The latter farms are referred to as n operations in
the remainder of this report.) Furthermore, ch s in crop mix
(for example, more forages or less commercial cops than pre-
viously produced) will affect herd management. Thus questions
related to changes in crop mix were asked.
Four farm plans are presented in Appendix B. Each plan
depicts a cattle producer and shows a schedule of activities
related to cattle production. The reader may choose to refer to
these plans to gain insight on the general nature of cattle
production in North Florida.
Family Size and Labor
The average age of the head of household interviewed is
approximately 55,and the average number of family members living
on the farm is 3.4. Of these, the average number of family
members that could work on the farm (that is, family members
except those disabled and school age children) is 2.4. Of the 28
beef producers interviewed, 25 can be considered family farmers,
as three producers are plantation managers for non-managing
3Bureau of Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, Census of
The personnel of the county extension office (four who are
natives of Jefferson County) provided names of producers who might
be interviewed as did some of the cattlemen interviewed.
Table 1. Number of Producers Interviewed by Size and Type of Operation.
Mixed Livestock Only
Herd Size Cow/calf Stocker Cow/calf Cow/calf Stocker Cow/calf
only only with stocker only only with stocker
< 50 3 1 10
100-124 1 1 1 1
2 200 1 2 1 1 2
aFor the cow/calf only operations the herd size is determined by
the number of brood cows. For the cow/calf with stocker
operations size is determined by the number of stockers.
bThis group includes one farmer who purchases young dairy bull
calves and raises them to about 600 pounds. He is excluded from
discussions related to brood cow management. It also includes
another producer who is just starting out and is presently
raising his potential brood cows.
cThere is one producer who operates a cow/calf herd and a stocker
herd. When necessary he is treated as two producers in this
report since herd management practices differ.
owners. Of these 25 families, 20 have family members who work off
the farm. Fourteen of the 20 families have at least one member
who has a full-time off-farm job. (See Table 2 for a more
detailed summary of the off-farm labor situation.) In addition to
family labor, there is the possibility of hiring labor. Of the 25
farm families, ten hire labor--seven full-time and three part-
time. Obviously, the three plantations hire full-time labor. The
hired full-time laborers work 40 hours per week. The on-farm
hours worked by family members is highly variable (3 to 12 hours
per day). Sixteen (of the 25 producing families--64%) of the
heads of household are part-time farmers; five wives of heads of
households work full-time on the farm.
Acreage and Crops
In terms of acres the size of operation varies considerably;
S the average size is 815.8 acres with a range of 23 to 8,300
acres. This average is somewhat larger than the average acreage
for all farms in Jefferson County as reported in the 1978 Census
of Agriculture (506 acres). This is not surprising since an
average farm which produces beef, whether or not it does so in
conjunction with commercial crops, tends to be larger than the
average farm which produces no beef. Furthermore, if the two
largest farms are deleted from the sample, the average would be
Only four farms with large herds and acreage do not produce
crops for commercial purposes. In fact, both cattle and commer-
cial crops are produced on 13 of the 28 farming operations. The
13 beef producers producing crops commercially have an average of
165 acres in commercial crops (with a range of 5 to 900 acres); an
average of 145.8 acres (with a range of 12 to 400 acres) are in
summer or permanent pasture, and an average of 207.9 acres (with a
range of 10 to 625 acres) are in winter pasture. The land in
winter pasture, as previously noted, is often devoted to other
crops so that total crop-acres exceed the total of physical acres
available. Several producers, however, let the r winter pasture
turn to crab grass for grazing during the summer.
Fifteen of the active beef producers surveyed (54%) produce
no commercial crops. (Some, however, rent cropland to other
producers.) These farmers, on average, have 228.8 acres in per-
manent pasture (with a range of 0 to 1,300 acres) and 110.0 acres
in winter, pasture (with a range of 0 to 500 acres). Two of the
four producers who have no winter pasture buy hay and one buys
feed as well to carry their herds through the winter. The other
two make hay and buy feed for this purpose. The calves of the
producer with no permanent pasture are fed corn and feed during
Sthe summer and graze corn stubble in the early fall.
5For more information on native grasses as forages see
Important Grasses for Range Conservation in Florida, Soil
Conservation Service, USDA, as well as IFAS personnel.
Table 2. Number of Producers and Family Members with Off-Farm Labor by
Type and Size of Operation.
Malea Femalea Childrena
Full Part Full Part Full Part
time time time time time time
< 50 3b 1 1 Ib 1
> 125 1
< 50 2 1 b Ib 1
> 125 Ib 1 1 Ib
> 125 1
100-124 Ib Ib 1 Ib
> 125 1
aThe terms male and female refer to the heads of household and their
spouses. The term children refers to their children who live on or off
the farm, but work on it.
hThey are members of the same family in the specific category.
The major difference between mixed and livestock-only opera-
tions is that the production of commercial crops does seem to
cause another difference in cropping pattern. The mixed opera-
tions have, on average, a greater amount of land in winter pasture
than they do in summer pasture. (This increases the total product
of the cropland which is used for winter pastures.) The situation
of the producers who produce only beef is reversed. There is
another important difference. Only four of the livestock opera-
tions rent land. Of these four, two rent all land for the entire
operation. Nine of the operators of the mixed farming units rent
land. (Although data are not available, it appears that much of
the rented land is used for crops, not for grazing.) In summary,
69% of the producers of commercial crops rent land,while only 27%
of those producing only beef rent land.
The distribution of herd size by type of operation is pre-
sented in Table 1. The average number of brood cows owned by all
cow/calf producers surveyed is approximately 102 cows (with a
range of 14 to 390 head). Mixed operations have 93 cows (ranging
from 14 to 350 head) compared to exclusively beef operations with
average inventories of 111 cows (ranging from 15 to 390 head).
Thus, exclusively beef operations have approximately 20% more
breeding stock than mixed operations.
With regard to stocker operations, the average number of
stocker calves produced annually by mixed operations with stockers
(either raised and/or purchased) is greater, on average, than
exclusively beef operations. Mixed stocker operations produce an
average 353 head (ranging from 35 to 896 head) versus 314 head
(ranging from 180 to 470 head). If the largest herd is excluded,
the average of the mixed operations drops to 275 head. The aver-
age for all stocker producers is 342 head (range of 35 to 896
Changes in Crop Mix and Herd Size
Seventeen of the producers surveyed have changed their basic
crop mix and/or herd size in the last 10 years. Thirteen of the
producers have changed both crop size and herd size, while two
have changed crop mix only and two herd size only (Table 3). Herd
size refers to number of brood cows. The reason most commonly
given for change was changing price relationships. The next most
frequent was decrease in labor availability, and third was capital
and credit requirements. One producer who has recently started a
beef (cow/calf) operation is not included in this tabulation. He
stated that he started his operation because he had idle land.
(He believes that by slowly building his herd he could make more
money in the long run than if he were to expand rapidly.)
Seven producers increased acres of summer and/or winter
pasture. Six of these same producers also increased herd size,
Table 3. Changes in Crop Mix and/or Herd Size.
Changing Decrease Increase Capital More Changes Indicated
Price in Labor in Labor and Credit Land CropF R He
Relationships Availability Availability Requirements Available Failure Sumer Winter Crops Cow/calf Stocker
Summer Winter Crops Cow/calf Stocker
/ + +
S/ + --
/ + +
/ + + + +
S/ + + + + +
S+ + + + +
/ / / +
S/ + + +
/ indicates an occurrence of the situation described in the column heading.
+ indicates an increase.
indicates a decrease.
Blank indicates no change.
while one decreased herd size. The relationship between forage
and herd size for the six producers is not surprising. The one
producer who increased summer forage and decreased herd size also
decreased row crop production. These changes occurred because
labor availability seems to have been a key determinant of his
decision. The combination of changing price relationships and
capital requirements seems very important in decision making.
General Management and Herd Descriptions
In this section, some specific outcomes of management prac-
tices as well as some specific management practices are dis-
cussed. Specific management recommendations of the IFAS beef
program, however, are discussed separately in a later section.
For a cow/calf operation perhaps the most important charac-
teristic is calving rate. The calving rate distribution is pre-
"sented in Table 4. On average, larger herds have higher calving
rates than smaller herds. This is reflected in the fact that the
weighted average of calving rates is greater than the arithmetic
mean (89% versus 87%, respectively). Calf mortality rates, in
comparison, vary little but are slightly lower for smaller
herds. The overall mortality rate is approximately 3.4%.
Exact weaning weights are not known by most producers, as
they do not have scales. All but two of the 23 were able to
estimate weaning weights. The average weight is 413 pounds. The
average for those who do not carry the calves through a back-
grounding program is 474 pounds. Only four producers who do not
have a backgrounding program sell calves at weights different from
"weaning weights, and only one of these has a large difference.
Fifteen producers reported brood cow culling rates. The
average culling rate reported was 11% (with a range of 6% to
25%). Most producers gave open cows7 as the most important reason
for culling. Age and handling problems (mostly for the smaller
herds) were also mentioned.
6This method weights each herd by size when calculating the
average as opposed to the arithmetic mean (usually called average
or mean) which weights each herd equally.
Open cows are cows that failed to raise a weaned calf.
There are three groups of producers who raise stockers: those
who only buy weanlings and raise them to feeder weight, those who
only produce stocker calves from their brood cows, and those who
do a combination of the two. The last case is the most common.
The average producer sells stockers weighing about 775 pounds.
The weighted average sales weight of the stockers is approximately
716 pounds, indicating that larger producers sell animals weighing
less than those sold by smaller producers.
Of the three producers interviewed who have no brood cows,
two purchase weanlings and the other purchases young dairy calves
(65 to 70 pounds). They sell stockers at an average weight of
just over 700 pounds. Another four producers purchase stockers as
well as raising weanlings produced by their own brood cows. They
sell their stockers at an average weight of just over 780
pounds. The seven producers hold purchased weanlings for approxi-
mately seven months before they are sold.
Only one of these seven producers has a consistent program
regarding sale of animals. He raises two herds per year, one
through late spring and summer and one through winter and early
spring. This producer backgrounds about 50% more animals through
the warm season than he does through the cool season because of
availability of forage. Several of the others sell twice a year
(spring and early fall), but do so from the same herd and the
proportion sold depends upon actual spring price and expected fall
price. The majority of weanlings are purchased in October or
November and are sold either in May or in August/September.
There are four producers who background only those calves
produced by their own brood cows. The backgrounding program
starts when the calves, on average, attain 420 pounds. Two of the
producers have summer backgrounding programs. There is one rela-
tively small producer who backgrounds his own calves, and he has a
Herd Management: Specific Recommended Practices
There has been some question about the degree to which cattle
producers follow specific recommended practices. Questions
relating to some of these practices are discussed below.
Worming and Control of Flies and Other External Parasites
All producers worm their calves. Three of the cow/calf
operators, however, do not worm their cows on a regular basis.
They claimed that worms are not a consistent problem, and thus
they worm cows on an as-needed basis. On average they worm their
cows every two to three years. Sixteen of the cow/calf operators
do worm on an annual basis and several do so on a biannual basis.
Table 4. Calving Rate by Type of Operation and Herd Size.
i Herd Size Mixed Beef Only
Cow/calf Cow/ca Cow/calf
with stocker with stocker
< 50 81 82
100-124 90a 92a
S200 91a 91 85a
aOne producer only.
Table 5. Number of Producers Using Controlled Breeding by Size
Herd Sizeb Cow/calf only Cow/calf with stocker
Livestock only Mixed Livestock only Mixed
< 50 1 1 2
100-124 1 1
> 200 1 2 1
aThere were 23 producers that would have been able to use
controlled breeding at the time of the survey.
bNumber of brood cows.
All producers attempt to control external parasites. The
most common method found was ear tags. (This was not a question
on the printed questionnaire but was observed by the interviewer.)
Animal husbandry experts have described the use of a limited
breeding season or controlled breeding as critical to proper herd
management. This would seem particularly true for large herds,
because uncertain or widely distributed calving dates would most
likely result in calves not being brought up to the pens to be
worked at proper times in their growth cycle.
Thirteen of a possible 23 producers8 (Table 5) practice
controlled breeding for their herds. Those who do so claim con-
venience for working calves and obtaining a more uniform calf crop
as the major advantages of this practice. Most of the 13 use
winter and 'early spring as the breeding season, although two use
spring and part of summer. One producer uses a split season of
two months in the winter and two months in the summer. All 10
producers who do not use controlled breeding have small herds.
Four of these producers stated that they do not have enough pas-
ture to keep their bulls separate from the cows. Five stated that
their calving rates are acceptable and therefore they see no need
to practice controlled breeding. Of these five, two said that
they could watch the cows individually as calving time came near,
and that they did not have time to work all their calves and cows
after a short calving season. One producer had just never thought
about imposing controlled breeding.
The impact of controlled breeding on herd performance is
illustrated in Table 6. Average calving rate is 89.5% and average
weaning weight is 443.8 pounds for those who impose a limited
breeding season versus a calving rate of 84.9% and average weaning
weight of 366.7 pounds for those who do not. These figures imply
that producers who control length of breeding season wean 397
pounds per brood cow while producers who allow year-round calving
wean 311 pounds per brood cow, which is nearly 22% less. Of the
13 producers who practice controlled breeding, six have a back-
grounding program. Only one of 10 producers who does not practice
controlled breeding, backgrounds feeder cattle.
8Twenty-five producers are classified as cow-calf pro-
ducers. One of these is just starting out. Another purchases
only newly born dairy calves and raises them to stocker weights.
Thus only 23 producers can currently "control" breeding season.
Table 6. Comparison of Controlled versus Unlimited Breeding of
Controlled breeding No controlled breeding
--------- Average -----------
Calving rate 89.5 % 84.9 %
Weaning weight 443.8 pounds 366.7 pounds
Background 6 producers 1 producer
Don't background 7 producers 9 producers
Implants or Growth Stimulants
The case can be made that controlled breeding is at the
center of other recommended practices. Producers who did not
impose a limited breeding season on their herds also did not use
implants or growth stimulants. Five of the ten were not aware of
the stimulants. Two stated that they did not have enough informa-
tion about them and were therefore unsure of the advantages.
Furthermore, they stated that because their herds did not have
calving seasons (the product of a controlled breeding program),
the use of implants would be inconvenient. Another producer
stated that their use is against his philosophy.
Of the seventeen9'10 producers who do impose controlled
breeding on their herds or who buy all their calves (thus concen-
trating a calf crop), nine use growth stimulants and eight do
not. Five of the latter stated that they were not convinced that
stimulants would be effective given their feeding programs, and
two others had tried them but were not convinced of their effec-
tiveness. All those who use growth stimulants use the fungus type
(Ralgro), claiming that they are easy to use and could be used on
recently born calves rather than on weanlings only, as is the case
of the other type of compounds. One producer said that he used
them on bull calves and steers, but not on heifer calves because
he believes that when he implanted heifer calves they demonstrated
some undesirable characteristics.
9Thirteen who impose controlled breeding plus four who buy
all their calves.
10The newly established producer is not included in this
Feed and Forage
Of the 30 producers, only four were. not on an improved pas-
ture-based program, and two of these are not presently in opera-
tion. The major reason that one of the producers who has gone out
of business gave for terminating his operation was cost of feed
relative to the price of weanlings. Of the two active producers,
one has plans to convert to an improved pasture-based program, and
the other, although not purely pasture-based, does feed corn he
produces and grazes his stock on a small oat field during part of
All producers apply fertilizer to their pastures, and all but
one apply lime (Table 7). The amounts applied, however, are
sometimes less than recommended by soil sample. The primary
reason given for this is the increasing cost of fertilizer. No
irrigated pastures are identified in the survey. Crops grown
exclusively for cattle feed are not irrigated.
The general pattern of pasture/forage programs begins with
permanent pasture grazed from May through September or October.
The most common improved permanent pasture grasses are Coastal
bermuda, Argentine bahia, and Pensacola bahia. In many cases,
some permanent pasture is used for hay--cut about three times and
fed during the winter (October or November through March). In
October, annual pastures are planted (annual clover, rye, rye-
grass, and oats). Annual pastures are planted after a row crop as
well as overseeded in permanent pasture. Annuals are usually
mixed--for example, rye with oats, clover, or ryegrass--in the
same fields. This practice affords some protection from variation
in moisture and temperature. Annual pastures are grazed from
November through March or April. The goal of the cool season
pasture program is "to keep things green year-round," so as to
minimize purchased feed costs. Only one producer stated that he
harvests seed or grain from his winter pastures.
For the cow/calf herd, some supplemental feeding through the
winter is necessary if herd size corresponding to carrying capa-
city of summer pasture for cows and calves is to be obtained. For
the purely stocker herd, some winter supplemental feeding is also
necessary if stocking rate is high.
Therefore most producers use supplemental feeding during most
winters. Most producers give preference to their calf herds with
respect to winter pastures, as the cool weather forages are of
high quality and thus permit good gains. The cows are permitted
limited pasture, which is generally supplemented with hay. Twenty
of the 23 producers with cows and calves feed their cows hay
during the winter. The amount varies depending upon pasture
conditions and availability, but generally about one ton of hay is
fed per cow through the five-month November through March
period. Of the three producers who only produce stockers, two
feed no hay, but one does feed a grain mix. The third producer
feeds only a small amount of hay (about five pounds per calf).
The producer that raises dairy calves to stocker weight feeds corn
Table 7. Number of Producers by Type and Herd Size who Soil
Sample, Fertilize, and Lime.
Size Cow/calf with Stocker Stocker only
A. < 50 head
1. Soil Sample 4
a. recommended level 5
b. below rli1 2 1
c. unsure 5
a. recommended 9
b. below rl 3
B. 50-99 head
1. Soil Sample 1
a. recommended level 1
b. below rl
a. recommended level 1
b. less than rl
C. > 100 Head
1. Soil Sample 3 3 3
a. recommended level 4 5 3
b. below rl
a. recommended level 3 5 3
b. below rl 1
a/"Below rl" means below recommended level.
and grain mix supplements, but no hay. The producer that is just
starting out feeds a limited amount of hay plus some grain mix to
Issues Concerning Herd Management and Forage Programs
The relationship between a profitable beef cattle operation
and good pastures is underscored by the results of the survey.
Pastures should be available for both warm and cool seasons to
reduce the need for supplemental feeds. Producers provide few, if
any, supplements during the warm season, and pasture is the pre-
ferred source of nutrition during the cool season. Given this
observation, it can be inferred that there is competition between
cows and weaned calves for pasture, especially in the winter. The
competition is an apparent limiting factor to increased back-
grounding of feeder cattle in North Florida.
If the inability of Florida cattlemen to background large
numbers of feeder cattle is the primary constraint to expanded
finishing and slaughter of cattle in Florida, this can be directly
traced to the lack of high quality winter pasture. This is demon-
strated by the fact that 12 of the 15 producers with cow/calf
operations claimed that they do not raise stocker cattle because,
among other reasons, they would have problems overwintering their
breeding herd. Two of the other producers stated specifically
that insufficient land prevented them from backgrounding feeder
Increases in the stocker herd require that weanlings are
readily available to the operators and that the market for
stockers is favorable or at least as favorable as that for wean-
lings. Therefore, market considerations are important to the
solution of the problem of moving towards self-sufficiency in
slaughter beef in Florida.
Marketing: Methods and Issues
Marketing methods are the modes of sale and, for stocker
operations with purchased calves, the mode of purchase. In con-
sideration of the desire to increase backgrounding in the state,
non-traditional market arrangements are analyzed. This topic was
included in the questionnaire (Appendix A), and the reactions of
producers are summarized in the following sections.
Methods of Sale and Purchase
As demonstrated in Table 8, the predominant method of sale
(over 50% of a herd sold in a particular manner) varies by size of
herd. Most larger producers sell their animals in a board sale,
while the smaller producers sell them in an auction. One large
producer sells directly to out-of-state feedlots. The one smaller
producer who does not sell calves via auction or board sale sells
directly to local beef producers who background.
Table 8. Predominant Method of Sales.
Herd Size Board sale Auction Other Board sale Auction Other
< 50 10 1 1
50-74 1 1
S100-124 1 1 1
125-149 1 1
150-174 1 1
175-200 1 1
> 200 1 4 1
Eleven of the seventeen producers who sell through an auction
sell at the Monticello Stockyards. The reasons most of these
producers gave for selling in Monticello were trust in the auc-
tioneer, convenience and lower hauling fees as compared to selling
at more distant markets (for example, Thomasville, Georgia, or
Madison, Florida). Those who did sell elsewhere stated that
better prices offset the inconvenience and/or hauling fees. (Some
of those who sell at markets other than Monticello have their own
trucks for hauling cattle.)
Eight of the producers interviewed purchase calves on a
regular basis. Three purchase calves from nearby dairies. The
other five draw from a variety of sources, the most important of
these being Georgia, in particular Thomasville. The next most
important source is from other local cattle producers, and the
third source is other markets in Florida. The relative
unimportance of other Florida markets points to the weakness of
commercial ties between north and south Florida.
Marketing Issues and Strategies
If more backgrounding is to be done in North Florida, more
yearlings would have to be brought into the region and/or more
animals would have to stay in the region. Relevant to both these
points, the questions were asked, "Would you be interested in
forward contracting for grazing (other people's) calves?" and "If
not, why not?"
Of the eight producers who have cow/calf with stocker opera-
tions, three indicated that they were not interested in contract
grazing. Two said no because of their labor situations,and the
other said no because of his land situation. One of the former,
however, said that he could be swayed by specific arrangements.
All five who said that they would be interested stated that the
contractual arrangements would have to be fully investigated and
analyzed before they signed a contract. Eleven of the twelve with
only cow/calf herds who were not interested said that it was
because they do not have enough land to carry their own herds and
graze someone else's herd. They also offered a variety of other
reasons such as not enough labor, interference with the existing
program, and responsibility for someone else's animals. The other
producer who said no was afraid of introducing diseases (bang,
blackleg, tuberculosis and lepto specifically) into the existing
herd. Only five cow/calf operators said that they would be inter-
ested. Two of the stocker operators said that they would be
interested. (One already does so for dairy heifers and has had a
favorable experience with the situation.) The third said that if
he were to, in effect, increase herd size, he would do so on his
own behalf. (Note that for the cow/calf herd operators these two
questions, by and large, elicited the same response as did the
question, "Why don't you raise stockers?")
To the question, "Would you be interested in feeding steers
(and/ or heifers) to slaughter weights on your farm?", most (14 of
17) cow/calf operators said no. The primary reasons given were
lack of land or overwintering problems as well as lack of other
facilities and labor shortages. Only eight cow/calf operators
said they would not consider maintaining ownership beyond weaning
through finishing. Five said that it would be too risky and/or
that they needed money immediately once the animals leave their
property. Two said that it would interfere with their present
programs. Of those who said yes, all indicated that the terms
would have to be such that they would not receive less money than
they would if they had sold the calves outright at the normal
sales period. Thus they wanted to share the risks of finishing
Only two producers who background cattle said that they would
not be willing to forward-contract to feedlots. One producer said
that he had lost money doing so in the past, and the other said
that he felt it was too risky. The nine other stocker operators
said that they would be willing to do so if terms were favor-
able. One of these, however, said that he would not obligate his
entire herd in this manner. As regards feeding steers (and/or
heifers) to slaughter weight on their farms, all the stocker
operators voiced concern about profitability and risk. Some also
stated that they lacked the facilities to run the type of opera-
tion required and thus did not feel the idea was attractive
because of capital requirements. Six producers did react favor-
ably, although conditionally, to the idea, while five gave nega-
tive responses. Only two of these eleven producers stated out-
right that they would not consider maintaining ownership through
finishing. The rest gave conditional (depending upon terms)
positive or negative responses. One of these producers who also
operated a feedlot in the past said he would do so in the future
Four of the producers interviewed stated that they had con-
sidered or are considering starting a feedlot operation. All the
producers stated that the capital requirements and/or risk
involved seemed prohibitive.
Twelve of the 27 respondents who answered the question, "Do
"you find your cattle operation to be profitable?", said that it
was. Three of these, however, stated that the profit margin was
not great and that they could not live off the profits. Fifteen
producers said that their operations are either marginal, unpro-
fitable, or that they made a profit one year out of every three to
five years. Six of these cattlemen stated that it was a good use
of their land and/or a way to build equity or assets (in land or
animals) so long as operating expenses were covered. Two of the
remaining nine stated that they believe they could make a profit
consistently with better management. The two producers who have
gone out of business did not find it profitable. The one producer
who is just starting out does not know yet.
Although there are a variety of management techniques and
plans, all producers realize the importance of their feed and
forage programs. Thus they try to maintain good quality summer
and cool weather.pastures for their herds. There seems to be
competition between cows and calves for high quality winter pas-
ture. If backgrounding occurs, calves receive priority for winter
pasture. For cow/calf producers who do not background, sufficient
nutrition during the cool season for cows is the primary con-
cern. For these producers, the decision to background hinges on
the question, "Given my cow herd and its requirements, can I keep
my calves longer?"
The cattle business is inherently risky and risk arises from
two sources: price risks for animals, and crop risks for feed and
forage. Producers are risk conscious and consider the risk factor
when contemplating alternatives. Producers appear to make produc-
tion decisions based on rates of gain and cost per pounds of
gain. Because of market requirements and marketing costs, back-
grounding is not deemed worthwhile for fewer than about 25
animals. Thus, the capital requirement of buying enough calv
also limits backgrounding conducted by small-scale producers.
Which of these three points--risk, pasture availability, and
size--is most important with respect to promoting backgrounding is
not certain, but all three should be considered.
1For a more complete discussion on this point see the
Proceedings of the Third Annual Farming Systems Research
Symposium, Manhattan, Kansas, October 31-November 2, 1983, "Cow-
Calf vs. Stocker Operations: An Identification of Leverage Points
in North Florida Beef Cattle Systems," by Zimet, Gladwin and
The Survey Instrument
BEEF CATTLE SYSTEMS
I. General Income/Farm/Family Information
A. Family and Income
1. How many family members live on the farm?
Off-Farm Work and Time
3. Do any family members have off-farm work?
4. What type of off-farm work do you and others in your
Type of Work
5. Rank income according to importance (proportions)
Off-farm income of husband
Total farm income
Off-farm income of wife
Retirement Pension and Social Security
Other (lease allotment, land, etc.)
6. a) How many hours/day do you and your spouse work?
Total Off-Farm On-Farm
7. Please describe yourself and wife in terms of work time:
Husband Wife Child
a. Full-time farmer (> 40 hrs.)
b. Part-time farmer (< 40 hrs.
and > 8 hrs.)
c. Full-time off-farm worker
(> 40 hrs.)
d. Part-time off-farm worker
(< 40 hrs. and < 8 hrs.)
e. No farm or off-farm work
(< 8 hrs./wk.)
B. General Farm Information
Current 10 Years Ago
8. a) Total acres
b) Total row crops
ryegrass and other
vegetables and melons
c) Permanent pasture
kinds of grasses in
d) tree crops
e) woodlands and range
9. Do you double-crop land used for small grains and annual
If so, how?
Crop ryegrass wheat rye oats others
10. How much land do you currently own and how long have you owned
How much land do you currently lease or rent and how long have
you leased it?
11. In what year did you start farming the present farm in the same
pattern you do now? (e.g. big change in crops, from all crops
to crops and livestock.)
12. If the present product mix is different from what it used to
be, why did you change?
a) changing price relationships
b) capital and credit requirements
c) crop failures
d) decrease in labor availability
(children leaving home, someone starting an off-farm
II. A. Livestock Information
13. General livestock information
If neither, why not? If either, then describe:
B. For cow/calf operation
five years ago
14. Mixed Brahma English Mixed Brahma English
15. Calving rate
16. Mortality rate
17. Culling rate (proportion
18. Usual birth weight
19. Usual weaning weight
20. Usual sale weight
21. How sold
Auction Board Sale Other
22. Where sold? Markets:
How do you decide between markets?
23. Usual number sold at one time.
24. Do you practice controlled breeding?
25. If yes:
a) Which months
b) Major advantages
26. If no,
a) What are the major advantages of year-round breeding?
b) What are the major disadvantges of controlled breeding?
a) Know that it is a recommended practice?
b) Know how to practice it?
c) Feed unable to convert due to the loss in calf crop that
d) Have enough pasture to keep bull(s) separate?
e) Think that you would get the same calving rate with
controlled breeding as you get now? or
f) would it increase?
g) Think you can earn the same now as with larger groups of
the same types of calves?
h) Desire to have cash income throughout the year?
i) Think you can manage calves as well under the present
system as with controlled breeding?
27. Do you think it would be possible to sell more calves when
prices are high with a controlled breeding program?
28. Do you conduct regular pregnancy checks?
29. If yes, how:
30. If no, Why not?
a) Are you aware that it is a recommended practice?
b) Do you know how to perform such a check?
c) Do you think it would be too time consuming to conduct on a
d) Do you think the culling rate would change if you would
conduct the tests?
e) Do you think the calving rate would change if you would
conduct the tests?
f) Do you think it would be profitable for you to conduct the
g) Do you believe it could he practiced profitably only in
conjunction with controlled breeding?
31. Do you have a stocker operation.
(If yes, go to part C)
32. If not, did you do so in the past?
33. Why don't you raise stockers?
a) Pasture/over-wintering problems?
c) Time available?
d) Not enough capital
e) Not enough land
f) Other (explain)
(If producer has no stocker operation, go to Part D)
C. For Stocker Operation
34. Usual number of calves on land
h) One year ago
c) Five years ago
Mixed Brahma English
36. Proportion purchased.
37. Usual purchase (starting) months.
38. Usual weight at purchase (beginning of program).
39. Usual weight at sale.
40. Usual sale months.
41. Usual number sold at one time.
42. Length of time usually held.
43. Where are calves usually purchased?
How did you decide which market to buy at?
44. How are calves usually sold?
45. Where are calves usually sold?
How do you decide which market to sell at?
46. Is your (backgrounding) program pasture based?
47. What is the feed source?
D. For both cow/calf and stocker
48. Do you use supplements?
Supplement fed % Purchased Price Amount
Urea or other NPN
Supplement fed % Purchased Price Amount
Urea or other NPN
49. If you do not use supplements:
a) Do you think they would increase rate of grain?
b) Do you think they are too expensive relative to rate of
c) Is your present pasture/grazing program satisfactory?
d) Would you like to use supplements if the "price were
right?" If so, which ones?
50. Do you use implants? Yes No
51. If yes:
Name Type Schedule Cost/dose
If no, why not?
a) Are you aware of them?
b) Do you believe the claims about them?
c) Do you think it would pay to use them?
d) Do you think they would be too difficult to use?
e) Too time consuming?
f) Do you know how to use them?
52. Do you worm your herd? Yes No
S53. If yes,
54. If no, why not?
a) Worms not a problem
b) Don't have enough cash money
c) Doesn't pay_
d) Too time consuming
III. Forage/Pasture Program
55. Please describe your forage/pasture/planting program.
56. Forage Crop Month(s) Months Months
Pasture Planted Grazed Harvested
57. Do you fertilize permanent pastures?
58. If yes,
Month Formula Amount Method Cost
59. a) If not, have you fertilized in the past?
b) What formula.
c) Did you stop because:
1) You didn't have enough capital/credit available?
2) You cut-back in herd size?
3) You felt it didn't pay in terms of yield increases?
4) Price of calves/steer?
60. If never fertilized
a) Do you think that your pasture production is adequate to
b) Do you want to raise more calves?
c) Do you think you could raise more calves with a
d) Do you think that fertilizer is too expensive as compared
to calf prices?
e) No improved pasture.
f) Do you have the capital/credit available to purchase
61. Do you apply lime to your pasture?
62. How much? (Tons/acre/year)
If not, why not?
63. a) Do you think yields would increase if applied?
b) Do you think you would have to use more fertilizer if
c) Do you think you would have to use less fertilizer if
64. For each field crop, please indicate how much seed/acre you use
and the source of seed. (If you purchase seed, please indicate
Crop Seed/acre Source Price
65. Do you find your cattle operation to be profitable?
66. If no,
Then why are you in the cattle business?
IV. Other Marketing Ideas
67. Would you be interested in forward contracting for grazing
If not, why not?
68. Would you be interested in forward contracting to feed-lots?
If no, why not?
69. Are you aware that Florida slaughter houses get steers from
70. Would you be interested in feeding steers (and/or heifers) to
slaughter weight on your farm?
If not, why not?
71. Would you consider maintaining ownership of animals beyond
weaning through custom-finishing?
If not, why not?
72. Why don't you start a feedlot operation?
One observation of cattle producers in Jefferson County is
that production practices vary widely. In particular, the
sequence of cultural practices, pasture rotations, and herd
management practices differs among producers.
The purpose of this appendix is to provide farm plans which
have been observed in Jefferson County. Four plans are pre-
sented. These plans do not describe all of the producers in the
county. They do, however, represent distinct characteristics
along the continuum of cultural practices, pasture rotations, and
herd management practices.
The first plan (Figure B.1) depicts a large commercial cow-
calf operation. The producer grows no commercial row crops, hut
does grow corn or sorghum and makes his own hay. Although there
are many activities related to crops, all cropping enterprises
support the cattle operation. The herd calving rate is character-
ized as "reasonable" given the size of herd. The producer gener-
ally sells open cows, but in his own words sometimes "lets them go
too long." Furthermore, the producer weans his calves at a rela-
tively high average weight of 450 pounds. The calves are sold at
a board sale soon after weaning.
The second producer (Figure B.2) has a mixed operation. His
major cash crops are soybeans and tobacco. The cow herd is small
and has a very poor calving rate (about 64% on average). Because
of limited pasture the producer lets his bull run with his cows
all year. Thus, he is unsure of calving intervals and the actual
calving rate could even be lower. In addition, because of limited
availability of capital, he does not regularly fertilize or lime
permanent pastures. He does apply fertilizer and lime to cash
The third livestock plan (Figure B.3) also depicts a small
cow/calf producer. Unlike the second producer, he produces no row
cash crops. On the other hand, he harvests excess summer forage
to make hay. He fertilizes and limes his pastures regularly. In
contrast to the second producer, the third producer imposes a
limited breeding season on his cow herd and gets a high (95%)
The fourth plan (Figure B.4) depicts a producer that has a
large backgrounding operation. He uses his permanent pastures
intensively without making hay. Unlike the first producer who
makes his own silage, the only annual crops that the fourth cat-
tleman produces are winter pastures.
Figure B.1. Plan for Large Cow/Calf Operation with Stockers
S Type Herd: Cow/calf with stockers
Breeding Season: Late spring/early summer
Farm Description: Large herd (400 cows), good calving rate (85%).
The beef operation is pasture based, 800 acres
permanent pasture, 40 acres corn or sorghum and
150-175 acres oats and clover. The corn or
sorghum is followed by the oats and clover.
The farmer makes his own hay.
January, February Feed silage and continue hay feeding,
March Hay feeding, plant corn.
April Worm bulls, start summer feeding, calving
April-July Bulls in with cows.
June, July Fertilize and lime pastures, make silage.
September Sell calves.
October Plant winter pasture, worm and vaccinate
calves, implant growth stimulants into
calves, worm cows and bulls.
December Start winter feeding program.
Figure B.2. Plan for a Mixed Operation with a Small Cow/Calf
Type Herd: Small cow/calf
Breeding Season: Open
Farm Description: Small herd (25 cows), poor calving rate (64%).
Tobacco, millet and corn are double-cropped
with 35 acres of rye and oats; thirty acres
permanent pasture. The corn and millet are
used to feed hogs. He buys all hay used.
Calves are sold twice a year because calving is
concentrated in spring and early summer and
fall but occurs year round. Calves are sold
weighing 350 to 400 pounds. The farmer raises
his own replacements. He worms young calves,
but rarely worms adults.
January Winter grazing and hay feeding continue.
March Plant corn and millet, prepare tobacco beds;
stop feeding hay.
April Stop winter grazing and start summer grazing.
Calving starts; tobacco transplant.
May Tobacco activities; calving.
June Soybeans planted, calving.
July-August Tobacco harvest.
September Tobacco sales; corn harvest.
October Plant winter pastures, calving.
November Calving; start winter grazing and hay
feeding. Soybean harvest.
December. Winter grazing and hay feeding continue.
Figure B.3. Plan for Small Cow/Calf Producer.
Type Herd: Cow/calf
Breeding Season: Late winter/early spring
Farm Description: Herd of 35 brood cows, high calving rate (95%),
75 acres permanent pasture, 8 acres corn, 10
acres winter pasture (rye and oats). No land
is double-cropped. Farmer makes own hay and
feeds it during winter (December-March) as well
as grain mix, range cubes and protein supple-
January-March Continue feeding of hay and supplements to
Scows; herd continues to graze winter pas-
February-April Let bull run with cows.
February-March Fertilize and lime permanent pasture.
May Move herd to permanent pasture; sell open
Scows; worm herd.
June-September Hay making.
August-September Calves auctioned (about 10 months old); corn
October Calving begins; winter pasture planted.
December Calving ends; start winter feeding program.
Figure B.4. Plan for a Stocker Operation.
Type Herd: Stocker
Farm Description: The producer has 400 acres of permanent pasture
and cultivates 235 acres of winter pasture. He
runs two backgrounding programs each year. In
May, he buys 600 calves, each weighing 350
pounds. These animals graze on summer pastures
until September and are sold weighing 550 to
600 pounds. In November, he buys 340 calves,
each weighing 350 pounds. These animals graze
winter pastures until early May, when they are
sold weighing 650 to 700 pounds. Calves are
typically purchased from Georgia and are sold
directly to midwest or Texas feedlots.
January-March Graze winter pastures.
April-May Graze permanent pastures.
May Fertilize and lime pastures after selling
winter animals. Buy summer animals.
May-September Summer animals graze permanent pastures.
September Sell summer animals.
October Plant winter pasture.
November Buy winter animals, vaccinate, treat and
November-December Graze winter pastures.