Nothing beats a meal of good bbq and good conversation with older cattlemen from the area. The one place to find such a thing is at a County Cattlemen’s meeting. I have always enjoyed traveling to these meetings across Arkansas with my dad. Our family’s cattle auction gives him a pretty good excuse to visit other counties’ meetings and get to know everyone. Now I get the chance to do a little visiting of my own here in Tennessee.

Last week I traveled to Erin, Tennessee for the Houston County Cattlemen’s meeting. In the warehouse portion of a fairly new Farmers’ Co-op building, we had some folding tables, a good spread of bbq, and about 20 cattlemen to strike up the conversation. True, these meetings make a great place to “shoot the bull” but it also makes a prime opportunity to gauge the current situation of area cattle producers. As we move into Fall calf weaning, it is perfect time to do some herd culling and work on the direction of our cattle programs. This meeting hosted guest speakers from Tennessee Extension, the state’s Farmers Co-op, and veterinary medicine company Boeringer Inglehiem. The topics all surrounded the idea of cowherd efficiency.

Market prices may be high for beef products, but at the same time, input costs have risen sharply. Making sure our cows are efficient in both health and production can be the difference between going under and being able to cover feed costs for next year’s calf crop.

There is no uniform answer for the perfect cow size. We want a cow that will raise the largest calf, on fewer resources, and at the same time be able to maintain and prepare for next year’s calf. Cattle ranchers are more like forage producers. We produce grass that is inedible for humans, harvest it with cattle that transform that energy into an edible, nutrient dense human food source; BEEF!

So the perfect cow size is one that can maintain herself in the environment, raise a calf, and be able to reproduce in time for the next calving season. We could get into it and talk about % calf crop weaned or pounds of calf weaned per pound of forage consumed. Bottom line when retaining cows is we want to identify those cows producing more with less, and cull those who are least efficient. Grazing land isn’t getting more accessible, and input costs aren’t going to disappear. So we’ve got to do a better job of producing more with less.

Do you attend any producer meetings in your area? Gauging by discussions, what are current important topics to farmers and ranchers in your area?