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OSU Extension - Fairfield County

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and the

OSU Extension BEEF Team

BEEF Cattle questions may be directed to the OSU Extension BEEF Team through Stephen Boyles or Stan Smith, Editor

You may subscribe to the weekly Ohio BEEF Cattle letter by sending an e-mail to smith.263@osu.edu

Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter

Issue # 908

October 29, 2014

Using Corn Stalks - Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Wayne County

As corn harvest progresses, don't overlook corn stalks as a feed resource. Corn residue can meet the nutrient needs of ruminant livestock that are in early to mid-gestation. The University of Nebraska has done a lot of research on the topic of grazing corn residue. A University of Nebraska study conducted over a 5 year period from 2004 to 2009 measured corn grain left in the field after harvest. An average of 1.0 bu/acre was available for livestock grazing. A 2004 Nebraska beef report on corn stalk grazing included more information about the make-up of corn residue. Generally, stalks account for 49% of the residue dry matter, leaves 27%, husks 12% and cobs another 12% of the residue dry matter. Livestock typically consume any corn grain first. After the grain, plant leaves and husks are eaten and the last portions of residue eaten are cobs and stalks.

Strip grazing across a corn field can even out the nutritional quality because livestock will be forced to consume both the higher and lower quality components of the residue within a given grazing period before the fence is moved to provide a new strip. According to a South Dakota State University Extension publication entitled "Grazing Corn Stalks" a crude protein (CP) content of 8% and a total digestible nutrient (TDN) content of 70% can be expected early in the grazing period. Over time the nutritional content will decrease to 5% CP and 40% TDN. A 2004 Nebraska beef report on corn stalk grazing listed the average TDN value at 54-55%.

The University of Nebraska has a corn stalk grazing calculator spreadsheet available at: http://beef.unl.edu/learning/cornStalkGrazingCalc.shtml . I entered a 165 bushel/acre corn crop and an animal weight of 1400 lbs. According to the calculator, using a 50% harvest efficiency, one acre of this corn stalk residue could provide up to 60 grazing days for that 1400 lb. beef cow.

The Importance of Weaning and Castration - W. Mark Hilton, DVM, Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine (reprinted from BEEF Magazine)

Recent research findings by Edouard Timsit, a University of Calgary DVM, point a finger of responsibility for bovine respiratory disease (BRD) right back at the sick feeder calf. Using DNA typing, his studies show that the most common and destructive bacteria involved in the BRD complex (BRDC) - Mannheimia haemolytica - are mostly not spread from calf to calf during BRD outbreaks occurring at feedlots.

No, this bacterium seems to attack the calf's lungs after some stressful event, and it's primarily the M. haemolytica bacteria that live in the upper respiratory tract as a part of the calf's "normal" bacterial flora that do the damage. After some stressors, the calf's immune system is unable to fight off the bacteria that have been residing in the calf's nasopharyngeal area for months.

According to preliminary research by Jared Taylor at Oklahoma State University, Pasteurella multocida, another bacterial pathogen in BRDC, seems to be similarly opportunistic.

Both researchers contend that BRD due to M. haemolytica andP. multocida may not really be contagious. The stress on the calf's immune system, along with these bacteria that normally inhabit the upper respiratory system, could be all it takes to trigger a BRD event. While research is ongoing, the initial findings point more to the sick calf itself and less to the pen mates.

I'm not downplaying stressful events like commingling cattle and long truck rides, as we also know that the viruses that play a role in many BRDC cases, along with Mycoplasma bovis, are spread mostly from calf to calf in an outbreak. But what is the biggest stressor? I think the consensus would be weaning.

Most studies corroborate this finding, and most feedlot operators would concur. A calf weaned for 30 days (45 days is better) is much more tolerant to thrive in the feedlot environment than a calf that is unweaned.

Vaccinating the calf before moving is also important, but the work by Timsit and Taylor shows that if we add too many stressors, the bacteria will travel to the lungs and likely cause disease. With weaning being the biggest stressor, we need to have no other stressors that day, or opportunistic bacteria will likely storm down the trachea and set up shop, ready to cause disease.

Another health and welfare issue is selling bull calves. Castration at the backgrounding lot is too late. Walk those spring-born calves through the chute now and cut them.

I often hear that farmers and ranchers are the nation's original champions of animal welfare, and I believe it. But, if you're not weaning and castrating your calves before you sell them, you can't wear the animal welfare ribbon.

We've all heard someone say, "I can't wean calves before I sell them. I don't have the facilities or feed."

* If you don't have facilities, use the two-step weaning program in which you apply an anti-nursing device to the nose of the calf for five days, and then wean with a single electric wire between the cows and calves.

* If you have no feed, then wean the calves when you still have some grass and save the best patch for the weanlings.

I tell my students that "can't never did anything," and they figure out a way to get the task accomplished.

The bottom line is, we can do better. We can reduce morbidity and mortality, and enhance animal welfare. If you're not weaning and castrating calves before selling them, then figure out a way to get the task accomplished.

Ask a neighbor who weans before selling how he does it. Ask your herd health veterinarian or Extension beef specialist for help. They likely have helped others with similar concerns, and most love that part of their job.

Again, we can do better, and your calves deserve better.

Workshop & Field Day on Converting Invasive Shrubland to Productive Grasslands

The invasion of grasslands by non-native shrubs is problematic - decreasing wildlife habitat, property value and land use options including grazing. On October 31 the Ohio Invasive Plants Council is hosting a workshop at The Wilds that will feature a case study of converting a dense stand of mature autumn olive cover to a more productive pasture in only 1 year. Speakers will discuss the multiple benefits of improved grasslands, such forage for livestock, grassland bird habitat and warm season prairie establishment.

You can find a detailed agenda and registration information at the Ohio Invasive Plants Council web site: http://www.oipc.info/

"Soil Health, Nutrient Management, and Forage Quality on Your Farm"

The Jackson Soil & Water Conservation District will host a "Soil Health, Nutrient Management, and Forage Quality on Your Farm" program beginning at 6 p.m. on November 5 at the OSU research station in Jackson. The program will focus on soil nutrient management and forage quality. Please RSVP by email to rob.hamilton@dnr.state.oh.us or by phone (614) 562-0738.

Record Cattle Prices, Again and Again - Chris Hurt, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University

The words, "Another new record for cattle prices" has kind of lost its punch this year because there have been so many new records established. Finished cattle prices began the year at about $135 per hundredweight which were record highs. By March they reached $150, a new record high. In July prices ascended to $160, for the first time ever. Now, finished cattle have touched $170, for the first time ever-a new record high.

What is going on? Will cattle prices just keep setting new records? For how long?

The U.S. cattle cycle is well documented back into the mid-1800s. That is a cycle of rising and falling production over 10 to 12 years with a price cycle that is inverse to the production cycle. Studies of those cycles suggest that prices tend to reach their cyclical peak in the early phase of cow expansion as the industry begins to rebuild the herd. There are two reasons for this: first, the number of market ready animals is already small due to the contraction that has been going on; and second, the retention of heifers and cows further reduces slaughter animal numbers even more thus pulling down beef supplies.

The current cattle production cycle is at the end of an 8 year downward slide in numbers that began in 2006 when beef cow numbers were at 32.7 million head. By the start of 2014, those numbers had dropped to 29 million head, a decline of 11 percent. This means there is already a small pool of calves for our beef supply. The second key is reduced female slaughter as producers begin to re-build the beef cow herd. That appears to have started in earnest, especially in the last-half of this year.

There are two ways in which cattle producers rebuild the herd. The first is by holding on to older cows for another year rather than sending them to market. The current evidence for this behavior is demonstrated by an 18 percent reduction in beef cow slaughter so far this year. Further evidence that this trend is increasing is a 23 percent reduction in beef cow slaughter during the most recent quarter--July through September. In addition, the dairy industry is contributing to reduced beef supplies as milk cow slaughter is down 11 percent year-to-date. The milk industry has also likely begun an expansion phase.

Holding on to older cows for another year is a short-term form of expansion that cannot be maintained for multiple years due to the aging of the herd. So, the second way the herd expands is through heifer retention. There is clear evidence that this behavior is also being practiced by both the beef and the dairy industries. Heifer slaughter so far this year is down nine percent and was down 11 percent in the third quarter of 2014.

How important are these reductions of female slaughter to the total slaughter? Using the year-to-date rate of reductions for all of 2014 would result in heifer slaughter being down 770,000 head, beef cow slaughter down 550,000 head, and dairy cow slaughter down 340,000 head for the year. These sum to nearly 1.7 million fewer females going to market this year and thus lowering slaughter numbers by over five percent.

So have cattle prices reached their cyclical peak on the current cycle? The likely answer may be NO! for two reasons. First, the size of each year's calf crop is still declining so finished cattle supplies will drop at least through 2015 and well into 2016. Second, once herd rebuilding begins, as is now evident, expansion of the beef cow herd generally continues for four to six years. This means beef supplies will be down again in 2015 and perhaps into much of 2016.

Offsetting the argument for even higher cattle prices to come is the expectation for growing supplies of competitive meats starting in the second quarter of 2015. This is the argument that beef consumers will have lower priced meat and poultry alternatives by the spring of 2015 and therefore new record high cattle prices will become increasingly difficult. To the extent this is true, it may shorten the window of opportunity for new record cattle prices to this fall and winter.

Current anticipated finished cattle prices derived from futures suggest this same pattern, with prices in the higher $160s for the remainder of the year, then moderately lower prices in the mid-to-upper $160s would be expected into April. Starting in the spring of 2015, increased supplies of chicken, turkey, and pork will provide consumers with ready alternatives to high priced retail beef and cattle prices may weaken. That weakening of cattle prices in the spring of 2015 is not a collapse, just a failure for cattle prices to keep making new record highs again and again as was the case in 2014.

The long-term profit outlook for the beef industry is bright, but the record prices on this cycle may well occur in the next six months.


Visit the OSU Beef Team calendar of meetings and upcoming events

BEEF Cattle is a weekly publication of Ohio State University Extension in Fairfield County and the OSU Beef Team. Contributors include members of the Beef Team and other beef cattle specialists and economists from across the U.S.

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Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Agricultural Administration; Associate Dean, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; Director, Ohio State University Extension and Gist Chair in Extension Education and Leadership. TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181.

Fairfield County Agriculture and Natural Resources