There is an old saying that says you cannot manage what you do not measure. On a livestock operation where pounds of animal equate to dollars in the bank, this adage rings true.
Measuring factors, such as animal weights, is vital not only to improving animal and herd performance, but ensuring the producer's bottom line as well. Greg Marlay, manager of DJV Cattle Company in Edwards, Missouri recognizes this necessity.
"Weighing is the first basic step in managing production," says Marlay.
"Our company quote here is, 'Identify the pullers and draggers,' " says Marlay. "We cannot do that without scales and an identification system."
Over the years Marlay has realized without a scale you are just working in the dark. When it came time to purchase a weighing system for DJV Cattle Company, he knew Gallagher would be his brand of choice.
"I have over 30 years of experience with Gallagher," says Marlay. "I like the quality of their products and the technical support they provide."
DJV Cattle Company's first weigh scale system was a Gallagher 3800 scale head, purchased at the recommendation of their local veterinarian. However, more recently, they have added the HR3 Electronic Tag Reader and upgraded the scale head and data collection abilities with the Weigh Scale Indicator 810. They are very happy with the system's performance thus far.
The central Missouri cattle operation considers this technology a vital management tool for their business which currently runs approximately 700-head of mother cows and retains ownership of all calves, backgrounding and finishing them on the same operation.
When processing cattle, DJV Cattle Company tries to capture as much data as possible on their animals as they come through the chute.
"We find ourselves collecting an immense amount of data in the course of a year on a cow," says Marlay, "and we've found it's beneficial to do so."
Each animal on Marlay's operation is outfitted with an electronic identification (EID) ear tag containing a chip which carries a unique identification (ID) number. This unique ID number is readable with the use of the HR3 Handheld Electronic Tag Reader and utilizes Bluetooth technology to communicate with data collection devices.
When used in combination with the Weigh Scale Indicator 810, the HR3 Electronic Tag Reader allows Marlay and his employees to simultaneously identify animals and record their weights as they are processed through the chute, increasing efficiency and saving time.
DJV Cattle Company records weights on mature cows during three critical times of the year – pre-calving, breeding, during pregnancy check and weaning. Calves are weighed individually at weaning. In addition, the scales provide a means to accurately determine individual dosage rates for vaccines and medications.
Despite its multiple uses, Marlay believes the single biggest benefit of using Gallagher's EID reader and weigh scale systems on his operation has been the ability to record individual weaning weights of calves.
"That alone I believe would pay for the system," he says.
Most ranches do not bother to take individual weights, Marlay says. However, he has found this simple practice has allowed him to identify which cows are not doing their jobs. By singling out the low performers, he is able to better choose which cows to cull. This in turn improves overall herd performance and provides for a higher quality calf crop the following season.
As with any technology, however, there will be bumps along the way. Marlay found the EID and weigh scale system to be quite reliable, but admits he had a little trouble here and there.
"It takes a little bit of maintenance as anything," says Marlay, "but, once we learned what we weren't doing procedure-wise and fixed it, it works really slick."
Today, Marlay cannot imagine not having a Gallagher weigh scale system on the ranch.
"It's like four-wheel drive or cab tractors – you wonder how you get along without it," he says.
And in this day and age, more information means more knowledge, which comes back to the ability to make better management decisions.
"In the past we never had enough history on a cow to make those decisions," says Marlay. "Now we are able to identify the superior animals we want to continue with."
In the long run, the use of Gallagher products has allowed DJV Cattle Company to not only improve their herd and cattle genetics, but the sustainability and profitability of their ranch as well.
- Authored by Jesse Bussard an agricultural writer based in Bozeman, Montana.