Spring 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW3

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Integrated Beef Cattle Management


Norman L. Dalsted
Associate Professor and
Farm Management Specialist
Colorado State University - Fort Collins

In 1986, many Colorado livestock producers are struggling to survive financially, hoping product prices will improve. Unfortunately, they have little control over market prices. They do have control, however, over herd health and efficiency, and thereby the costs of production, capital use and debt load, marketing strategies, size of operation, and other related variables. Exercising control over these variables is a management function, and improvement of managerial abilities may resolve the financial viability problem.

In July, 1983, Colorado initiated the Colorado Integrated Reproduction Management (CIRM) project to address the production, financial, and marketing problems facing today's livestock producer.

The general goal of the CIRM project is "to increase by 10% the pounds of calf produced per economic unit, in a financially beneficial way, within the next 5 years." Achieving this goal involves four objectives, each implying an increased level of management:

  1. Reduce the length of the breeding season.
  2. Reduce calf and cow losses due to dystocia.
  3. Reduce neonatal calf losses due to disease, particularly diarrhea.
  4. Incorporate economic analysis in management decisions affecting production and marketing of beef cattle.

The fourth objective incorporates the economic analysis important to the achievement of the project's goal. Thus, the CIRM project was conceived as a multidisciplinary, management-oriented study of beef production.

Colorado's CIRM project was formulated by representatives from the Colorado Cattleman's Association, Colorado Wool Growers, Cooperative Extension Service, and the Agricultural Experiment Station in a planning meeting in December, 1982. The general goal and related objectives were based in part on a survey of ranchers and veterinary practitioners located throughout the state.

The project involves in significant ways ranchers, Extension agents, and the CIRM investigative team. Taken together, they reflect the integrated interdisciplinary nature of the project. Viewed separately, they represent three levels of activity-the producer, the technical advisor, and the research level. Disciplines involved in the CIRM team include: reproductive physiology, range management, agricultural economics, animal sciences, and veterinary sciences.

The CIRM project involves seven participating ranchers. The cooperators are dispersed throughout the state representing the major geographical and climatological regions (high plains [northern and southern], high mountain country, and western desert). Each of the cooperating ranchers works closely with the local Extension agent.

The CIRM project offers concentrated production and management guidance to participating ranchers. By identifying ranch problems, proposing alternative courses of action, and analyzing the results from which conclusions can be drawn, the CIRM project offers help in decision making.

While the project is concerned with each cooperator, the extension of results to other livestock producers is an integral part of it. Each of the case studies (each cooperator) is used as a vehicle to communicate results to other producers in the locale through field days, seminars, and publications.

Accomplishing the objectives of the CIRM project will result in improving the decision-making capabilities of ranchers and enhance their prospects for profitable operations. CIRM is a model for future educational activities.