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Feeding with momentum

As a manager, you know that planning is a difficult process. It would be difficult enough if you only had to consider your input cost along with your production ef­ficiency and figure how they fit into a relatively predictable market. But this is agriculture. The past couple of years prove—once again—that this business isn’t predictable. Markets have swerved along with trade policy, and weather has been a whipsaw of first too dry and then too wet. These realities may force a change of plans, but looking for­ward is still valuable.

On the cattle side of Midwest ag­riculture, the uneven year brought some benefits. After suffering signif­icant drought in 2018, all of MFA’s trade territory is free of drought conditions. In general, range and pasture land are going into winter in good condition. A successful hay crop and managed stockpile have producers in much better shape than a year ago.

And there is reason for optimism in the markets. Ron Plain reports on page 31 that current breakeven-to-losing profit margins could get a boost from stronger export demand in 2020. If we can keep the national economy from slipping, stronger domestic demand could provide momentum, too.

However modest it is, momen­tum is one factor that can help shape your outlook and successful planning.

A recent discussion among a team here at MFA turned to the idea of a heavy flywheel. The concept of a flywheel is that you don’t go from a standstill to maximum speed all at once. You have to exert concen­trated effort to start the flywheel in motion. It takes effort to keep it moving, but once you have the mo­mentum, the weight of the flywheel helps maintain progress.

For cattle herds in MFA’s territory, a decent hay crop, grass in pastures and better prices on the horizon seem like momentum—a flywheel in motion. It’s an opportunity to shake off the lingering breeding dif­ficulties from 2018 and build herd health and efficiency. It’s a chance to put the longterm value of a feeding program into perspective.

If you keep with the flywheel analogy, fall is a good time to look at momentum and give the wheel a steady push. For spring calvers, taking cows into winter with a good body condition score provides long-term benefits. Cows in good condition generally deliver healthier calves and have a higher chance of successful breed-back. That’s mo­mentum for the next year.

In that sense, investing in a feeding program is a measure of future value. A healthy herd better weathers difficult times and better capitalizes on profitable times.

MFA’s feed division offers prod­ucts that fit every type of cattle op­eration. You know the name brands like Cattle Charge, Cadence, Full Throttle and Trendsetter. Each of these feeds has its place, but overall, the goal is to bring your herd nutritional value that isn’t readily available on the farm and make your herd more efficient. Specifical­ly, at this time of year, investing in protein supplements helps fine-tune your investment in stored forage.

When MFA brought Shield Tech­nology to the market in 2015, we had two driving motivations. Our principal motivation is constant. We seek ways to deliver products and services to farmers that help them improve profitability. And, at the time, we were looking for ways to help producers navigate the arrival of the Veterinary Feed Directive. That’s still part of Shield’s appeal.

In beef herds, Shield’s research-based blend of probiotics, prebiot­ics and other additives is designed to improve the immune system, rumen function and feed efficiency. The feed and mineral technology has been successful in the mar­ketplace. We often get feedback on success stories. As a result, Shield Technology is now available in other formulations, including supplement tubs, QLF liquid sup­plements, water-tank applicators and Shield Plus, which is designed to be given orally to newborn and stressed calves.

Markets and weather will always be threats to the planning and man­agement that go into an agricultural enterprise. You know that all too well. As a retail supplier, we join you in that knowledge. It is one of the things that drives our team. With the products I mentioned above and through new technology like Shield, MFA is providing tools to build momentum on your place.

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