How One Stocker Operator Minimized Medicine Cost and Maximized Return

Farms and ranches passed down from generation to generation, with the younger generation learning from the one before them is just one part of the agricultural legacy. Working together every day to make the land and animals more efficient for the future generations is the other part of that legacy. Howard Cattle Co., at Waurika, Okla., is a shining example of a multi-generation ranch where the fourth and fifth generations are working together, learning from one other and making things better for their kids and grandkids who want to return to Southwest Oklahoma someday. 

Steve and Jim Howard’s great grandfather, Noah, purchased the first parcels of land and started running cattle in the area in the 1880s. Nearly 90 years later, Steve and Jim’s dad saw a greater potential to running stocker cattle instead of breeding cows and raising calves on the land, and the brothers, along with now the fifth generation, Steve’s son Kade, and Jim’s son-in-law T.J. Neble, have not looked back. 

Their 20,000-acre operation is split between about 4,000 acres of wheat ground, 5,000 acres of pecan orchards and the remainder of grass that they can background about 14,000-15,0000 head on annually. They are continually seeking ways to keep their calves healthier and gain more efficiently. They found a product that will do both, with the Vita Charge® line of products from BioZyme®. 

“Vita Charge has been important to us. It’s helped us be able to run more cattle faster through the system without making any major changes and without spending a lot of money,” Steve said. “As soon as we started using it, we saw our consumption go up. Cattle went to the bunks faster and would eat more. There in turn, I know they started gaining weight from day one, instead of setting there several days just trying to get back to pay weight.”  

Upon arrival, the Howards, give each calf a dose of Vita Charge Cattle Drench which provides a jump start to the digestive system and protects cattle during stress. It is formulated to help cattle recover quickly and does not interfere with antibiotics that might be given simultaneously. Amaferm®, is a prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply for maximum performance. It is research-proven to increase intake, digestion and absorption. Once the calves are processed, they are turned into pens for up to three weeks to make sure they stay healthy before they are turned out to grass. In those pens, they have Vita Charge Stress Tubs waiting for them. The tubs allow cattle to get their daily dose of Vita Charge in a convenient method. In addition to Amaferm, the Stress Tubs also contain MOS to expel the bad pathogens in the gut.  

“We know the Vita Charge is working; we know it’s doing good, so we try to give it to them as often as possible, whether that be in the drench or in the stress tub.” Kade said. “We’re seeing them cleaning up their feed faster, acting spunky and staying healthy.” 

Steve appreciates the research that backs the Amaferm advantage and the savings the ranch is experiencing since it discovered the products. 

“Amaferm is a tried and true product. We know it works from the studies that have been done on it, and we can see the results we are getting out of it. It really helps stimulate the rumen and keep those cattle moving. I’m a firm believer in it,” Steve said. 

“Before we started using the Vita Charge Drench, we would spend at least an extra $3 per head, per load using more medicine to treat sick cattle. That first year, from the day we started using it until the end of the year, we got in about 700 head and our death loss dropped one-half of a percent. Little things make a big difference,” Steve added. 

In addition to the monetary cost savings of medicine since the Howards switched to Vita Charge, Steve said they are saving time and labor from pulling and treating sick calves. Their calves are not getting set back; they are feeling good and gaining.  

“The return on investment is several times over what it costs to put the Vita Charge in them. I couldn’t be happier. Their consumption is up, their performance this year is better than I can remember. At the end of the day, they are healthy, eating good, feeling good and will make more money,” Steve said. 

Having growthy, healthy calves that are feeling good and gaining well is important to both the Howards and their customers. Steve said many of their customers are repeat buyers who have come to expect high-quality cattle from the Howards. Since finding ranch labor is a challenge, it is nice to have a mineral program that helps keep their cattle healthy and growing so they don’t require extra labor for treating excess calves. His son agrees. 

“I take great pride knowing we are supplying the country with beef that we do absolutely the best we can to raise it and get it in the best quality and condition to keep a reputable name for ourselves,” Kade said. 

Raising an efficient product to feed the world, while working side-by-side with the next generation is very rewarding, and one of the goals of the Vita Charge products that aims to provide care that comes full circle. And for Steve Howard, he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“It’s rewarding to see your kids grow up and then to see their kids coming on and learning the ranch lifestyle,” he said. 

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