The rising cost of all goods and services is adding difficulty to making your dollar go further. Thus, the decision to invest in your operation may be a difficult one this year. Here are a few areas of the farm and ranch I would pay special attention to as you evaluate your operation needs and return on your investment.

Meteer travis
Beef Extension Educator / University of Illinois

Water – I encourage looking into infrastructure to improve water availability and distribution throughout your grazable acres. Water is the key to better utilizing all your acres. It is crucial to a successful grazing plan. Technology seems to be advancing in this area with solar-powered pumps, high-density poly pipe and more options for tanks and reservoirs. Including automatic waterers in lots and barns can be a huge labor-saver.

Permanent perimeter fence – “Hey, your cows are out” is never a phrase any cattle producer wants to hear. A well-built perimeter fence can return a lot in terms of peace of mind. If electrified wire is included in the perimeter fence, it can serve as the power for rotational grazing subdivisions. Consider permanent fences that allow for multispecies grazing and wildlife traffic.

Calving pen – A safe, sturdy, user-friendly calving pen can be a lifesaver. Assisting a cow during calving is much easier and more rewarding when the facilities allow for user safety.

Working facilities – A functional, well-planned working facility can allow for applying the management you need. General herd work, vaccinations, treatment, artificial insemination and other procedures are all more effectively and efficiently conducted with a good working facility. I prefer a squeeze chute and a Bud box setup behind it, but there are several functional designs. Just as important as the design, it is wise to spend some time studying animal behavior and improving your stockmanship skills.


Scale – You cannot manage what you do not measure. Being able to measure cattle weights is a crucial component of accomplishing your herd goals. Tracking cattle weights can aid in accurate decisions when determining what genetics fit your environment, stocking rates, income projections and feed budgets.

Software – We are in a new era of data collection and evaluation. However, collecting, recording and evaluating data has always been a key component of profitable operations. There are several software applications that are available to aid cattle producers. From whole-herd management software to on-board feeding programs and health monitoring systems, there are numerous programs to aid in improving cattle production and management.

While costs for fuel, equipment and supplies are a huge headwind for cattle operations, smart investments can improve the safety, efficiency and profitability of your farm or ranch.