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Stocker cattle operations have been challenged in 2020 in ways no one could have predicted as result of the COVID-19 pandemic that struck all parts of beef chain.

The successful operators find ways to boost their program’s efficiency based on the right information and honest self-evaluation, according to Dr. Miles Theurer, research director for Veterinary Research and Consulting Services LLC, Hays, Kansas. He coordinates research projects and evaluates data for VRCS LLC and provides information to consultants to practice evidence-based medicine. Theurer was one of the presenters at the recent Cattle U and Trade Show, an event sponsored by High Plains Journal.

“This year wasn’t what any of us expected but how we adjust can make a difference going forward,” he said.

That starts by realizing you have to take a look at all parts of the operation to stay profitable.

Necessary steps include taking a look at the vaccination protocol and programs whether it is a young calf or grown animal that is brought into the operation, he said. Double check the vaccination records and review all data with a consulting veterinarian or nutritionist. For example, if a producer is receiving bulls and they have been shown to be at greater risk of developing respiratory disease compared to steer mates it pays to closely monitor.

“Take a step back and look at your expectations to make optimal decisions,” Theurer said.

Remember that if the data does not back up your expectations it is not likely to be a successful plan and will be counterproductive to profits; however, there may be instances where practices are performed specific to your operation. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to developing and executing protocols.

The stocker industry is not one that historically has been as driven by data as other aspects of the livestock industry but successful operators understand it can produce positive results, Theurer said.

Other questions include making sure they do not have redundant costs that subtract from the bottom line. The other aspect of profitability is developing a marketing plan with measurable results based on realistic expectations.

If the operators have retained ownership in the animals throughout the process they need to ask several key questions.

“Knowledge of the pricing structure and variation of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is needed to provide guidance of the price of cattle when selling after completing the stocker phase as price feedlots are willing to pay will be based off the CME,” Theurer said. “Knowledge about the historical basis patterns is also needed to help maximize margins and lock in a profit.”

Theurer said 2021 is going to have its own unique challenges and yet there will be opportunities for stocker cattle operators to have success but they have to do their homework and be prepared.

Theurer also spoke on mid-feeding period morbidity in high performing cattle.

For more information about Cattle U and Trade Show visit

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or

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