Reducing stock after a disaster

Cyclones, floods, storms and bushfires can severely affect your cattle operation. Returning to profit after a natural disaster can be a slow process.

One of the first steps you can take is to assess your property and stock. This will help you put a plan in place to recover from the natural disaster. After evaluating the state of your land and your cattle, you may find that you need to reduce your stock numbers.

Reducing the head of cattle on your property can give you time to repair buildings, equipment, fences, watering points, cattle yards and pastures. It can also free up your cash flow.

Reducing stock numbers

If you have detailed records on your animals, you can manage a structured reduction of less-efficient animals across the beef herd. Having an effective animal recording system is best practice.

There are several ways that you can reduce your stock numbers after a natural disaster without putting your future productivity and cash flow at risk.

Market animals that are ready for slaughter

It's a good strategy to market animals that are ready for slaughter, preferably starting with the heavier, older animals that meet market specification.

This can be broadened to include slightly unfinished animals that will benefit from either a short period of agistment or time in a feedlot.

Relocate stock to agistment

You could relocate some stock to agistment on other properties that have good pasture.

Some stock may be moved to a feedlot to provide you with a short-term cash flow. This also decreases the stocking rate pressure on pastures.

Identify stock for sale

You have a number of options when deciding which stock to sell.

It is likely that you have a percentage of steers that you could sell.

At the same time, depending on the time and the stage of the breeder herd reproductive cycle, you should identify for sale:

  • non-pregnant dry cows
  • those of poorer temperament and with horns of all ages.

These can be followed by older breeders that have reared their last calf or weaned their current calf.

Further reduction of stock

If you need to further reduce numbers, identify heifers that do not meet your 'replacement heifer' selection criteria and grow them out on agistment or place them in a feedlot to achieve market specification.

Long-term focus

Each time you reduce numbers, your long-term focus should be to maintain and improve profitability by developing a more functional, fertile herd that has the required growth attributes.

You should focus on the 'breeding objectives' of your herd. It is essential that you maintain clear breeding objectives when selecting bulls for your herd to ensure the profitability of your beef enterprise.

Planning for the future

As part of your long-term recovery from a natural disaster, you should consider how you could plan for and cope with future events.

For example, if you do not have an effective animal recording system, now is an ideal time to put one in place. This is best practice and detailed records will help you to effectively manage strategic stock reductions in future.

Learn more about planning for natural disasters.