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AMY KIRK: The ‘live’ stock option

Every spring, my husband and I re-evaluate our investment portfolio by looking over the new options as they become available to us. Like most couples who follow their financial adviser’s advice, we try to diversify our investments. But for the most part we like to see our investment portfolio in black and white.

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Our investments consist of “live” stock. The black-baldy heifer livestock option is a very attractive-looking and popular investment among many ranches in our region. For those of you who have never heard of black-baldy heifer investments, let me enlighten you. Black-baldy heifers are female calves that are black with a white face -- the result of Hereford-Angus cross cattle -- which we raise to replace older cows. And a black baldy’s a beautiful sight to see in a herd, I might add.

Our annual springtime investment planning involves noting the nice-looking heifer calves from our calf crop. We base our decisions on what we think are the best-looking, best-built replacement heifers that will eventually become mother cows, so by fall we have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to pick for our future (cow herd, that is). What we prefer to see in our investment portfolio are as many black-baldy heifer calves as we can get from each year’s calf crop. Once the replacement heifer calves have matured and become part of our cow herd, we have high hopes of receiving more attractive-looking capital gains (calves). A big part of our diversification is incorporating gentle Hereford bulls; a contributing factor in producing black-baldy calves that hopefully become easy-to-handle cows.

The number of replacement heifers we invest in is based on how much summer grass there will be and how much hay the previous summer produces for winter feed. Every fall is when we select a nice bunch of heifer calves that will eventually be rotated into our cow herd. This is done so our “money market” (herd) will continue to grow by incorporating enough young cows regularly. In dry years though, we were forced to scale back on replacement heifer investments so as not to lose money from having to buy more hay due to a short supply of a hay crop and pasture grass.

We know we can’t predict what our little investments will do in the future and fully accept any risks that come attached. We prefer low-risk cows -- the kinds that are fairly predictable, have good dispositions, good calves, good health and are good nurturers, but it’s not always easy to determine what kind of cow a heifer calf will become. Sometimes they turn into risky investments. Medium-risk cows are ones that have good calves and are good mothers but can be temperamental towards humans when they have a new calf. A high-risk cow may have good motherly instincts or is healthy-looking, but possesses a want-to-kill-you attitude anytime a human tries to intervene with her/her calf’s survival.

This year, Art and I have been a lot more enthusiastic about the future. By the looks of this year’s calf crop, I’d have to say our Hereford bulls investment was worthwhile. We’ve received some hefty capital gains amounting in many brockle-faced and baldy calves -- several of which are also heifers -- what we consider valuable assets.

When it comes to investing, anybody can get a growth and income fund, but ours are a LOT more fun to watch.

-- Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at