Sell cows or buy feed? That’s the question most ranchers face when drought hits. The best time to plan for drought is in a wet year, and one of the best ways to plan is to build flexibility into a cattle operation.

Adding a stocker or yearling element to a cow-calf operation is one way to provide short-term flexibility without sacrificing capital or genetics. When the operation includes a retained or purchased stocker or yearling herd, it can be adjusted when feed supplies run short, allowing the core cowherd to be maintained. It is also an option for reducing labor requirements.

This year’s Nebraska Extension Stocker/Yearling Tour, Wednesday, June 29, will be near Harrison, Nebraska, and feature the Skavdahl Ranch. The ranch is run by brothers, Josh and Jud; their dad, Bill; and uncles, Jim and Charlie. The family has ranched in Sioux County for generations, running cattle from start to finish. Each family member has their own operation, but they share labor, equipment and
resources. A stocker/yearling operation allows them to adjust stocking rates to maintain range quality and their cowherd in dry years.

Tour participants will meet at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, then tour the Skavdahls’ cow-calf operation. That tour will be followed by lunch at the Harrison Fire Hall, sponsored by Merck Animal Health. Following lunch, what the new implant rules mean for use in stockers will be presented and a producer panel will discuss retaining calves as a stocker operation. The day will finish with a second tour of Skavdahls’ stocker/yearling enterprise near Harrison.

Several Nebraska Extension educators and specialists, as well as cattle producers, will be available for questions and discussion about stocker/yearling programs, implants, and other topics. The day’s program is free, but pre-registration is required, for a meal count. Pre-register¬† by calling the Sheridan County Extension Office at 308-327-2312.